About the only thing that didn’t go wrong today at Ibrox was the planned tribute to the 66 who died in the 1971 Ibrox Disaster.
Thankfully the silence was observed by all (although Celtic’s manager was posted missing) and after that we witnessed one of the most inept performances by a Rangers team in a Glasgow derby since the dark days of Alex McLeish’s tenure.
Rangers started well, lulling us into a false sense of security, but come the end and Craig Thomson’s whistle delivering us from the pain and misery, one would be hard-pressed to find anything positive to say about many (any?) of the Rangers XI plus subs.
Young Jamie Ness performed admirably on debut, and his ability to switch the play with his left foot brought early dividend, but even the young lad blotted his copybook with a weak effort tracking Samaras before the award for the penalty. Still, we can expect to see more of him this season and he demonstrated enough to hope for the future.
Back in the here and now it seems remarkable how isolated Kenny Miller appeared for large sections of the game. Support from midfield was non-existent and Vladimir Weiss had a very quiet, largely ineffective afternoon.
Never mind a plan B: plan A didn’t look any more than half-baked, against a Celtic team who pressed well but threatened only from long crosses and the occasional corner. Still, the only real chance for Rangers in the first half came from a Weiss corner met by McCulloch who was very unlucky to see his header blocked via the bar by Izaguirre.
When the opening goal came in the second half, it was another in the long, long, long list of defensive calamities offered this season. A ball played in between Weir and Bougherra found Samaras with space to advance on goal, and when McGregor’s rash efforts to block the move came to nothing the Greek transsexual had only to pass the ball into the unattended net. So simple, so appalling: such a lift for a mediocre visiting side.
Would that Rangers had ambitions to mediocrity: Davis was largely anonymous; McCulloch fouled out of the game; Whittaker lacking in spark; Miller running a lot but rarely finding the ball or a team mate who could break through a spirited if largely unconvincing Celtic defence. The second via the penalty spot was a poor piece of tracking, followed by a terrible attempt at a block. Samaras placed the ball in the corner and that was the end of that. Rangers huffed, but couldn’t even raise a puff, even if a deflected shot might have sneaked in and Lafferty felt aggrieved by a number of incidents in the box.
In truth Rangers deserved what they got: nothing.
Much to ponder, now, for Smith and co. The resolution to the proposed takeover would be useful, either way. It’s clear that when stretched, neither the depth of squad nor the ability of those within to consistently perform can be relied upon.
But it is too early to panic. Games in hand don’t automatically yield maximum points, but Rangers should pick up a few and at least narrow if not eliminate the gap. Today was a sad day for Rangers and their fans and the team did nothing to bring a New Year cheer.