Rangers maintained their 100% start to life under new manager Michael Beale with a 1-0 win away to Ross County on Friday evening.
Despite The Staggies bringing the game to their visitors in the opening exchanges, Rangers settled into a rhythm at Dingwall and pulled ahead after half an hour following patient play. They worked hard to look after the ball once they had pulled ahead, limiting Ross County’s chances to attack throughout the evening and seeing out the game for three points.
Rangers started the brightest but never managed to worry the hosts too significantly. In fact, it was Ross County who came closest to opening the scoring after 20 minutes, George Harmon’s downward header saved by Jon McLaughlin’s foot. Owura Edwards broke beyond Rangers’ backline moments later and poked a shot just wide of the far post.
Michael Beale’s side never had an issue in retaining possession, though, dictating the flow of the game comfortably and shifting the ball around the pitch. Ross County looked engineered to catch them on the counter attack, but found themselves 1-0 down after 35 minutes when John Lundstram used the space in front of him to rifle beyond Ross Laidlaw from the edge of the box.
The hosts tried their best to rally after falling behind, but despite an effort from Yan Dhanda on the cusp of half-time, Rangers eased into the break ahead.
Lundstram continued to impress as Rangers grew into the second half. He played a line-splitting pass in behind to the overlapping Adam Devine, whose low cross found Fashion Sakala, but the Zambian couldn’t squeeze his effort beyond Laidlaw.
Alfredo Morelos almost doubled his side’s lead after coming off the bench, seeing an admittedly tame left-footed effort from outside of the box dealt with. While Rangers’ lead was slender, they looked comfortable in their approach.
Malky Mackay’s side were having to defend their box for the most part and carve out chances on the break. The Gers appealed for a handball after 70 minutes when the ball ricocheted up onto
Rabbi Matondo was the next Rangers substitute to spurn a chance for 2-0. Ryan Kent drove at the hosts’ defence before reversing a pass back out wide to the Welshman, but his wrapped shot evaded the goal and instead whiskered wide.
Mackay ushered in the changes in search of a late equaliser, but the substitutes were unable to change the flow of the game and bring Ross County onto the front foot. Instead it was Rangers substitute Matondo who had another chance to put the game to bed in stoppage time when he was one on one with Laidlaw, but he failed to round the goalkeeper.
But they hung on for the win regardless, ensuring they stay second and within six points of league leaders Celtic ahead of their clash on 2 January.
GK: Ross Laidlaw (6); RB: Connor Randall (7), CB: George Harmon (6), CB: Alex Iacovitti (7), LB: Keith Watson (7); DM: David Canola (7), DM: Jordan Tillson (7); RW: Victor Loturi (7), AM: Yan Dhanda (6), LW: Owura Edwards (8); ST: Jordan White (7)
Subs: Kazeem Olaigbe (7), Ross Callachan (6), Jordy Hiwula-Mayifuila (6), William Akio (6)
GK: Jon McLaughlin (7); RB: James Tavernier (8), CB: Connor Goldson (7), CB: Ben Davies (7), LB: Adam Devine (8); CM: John Lundstram (8), CM: Glen Kamara (7), CM: Scott Arfield (7); RW: Malik Tillman (7), ST: Fashion Sakala (7), LW: Ryan Kent (7)
Subs: Alfredo Morelos (7), Ryan Jack (7), Rabbi Matondo (6)