ALLY McCOIST accused his team of committing the football equivalent of harakiri after they were dumped out of the Scottish Cup by Dundee United.
The Rangers boss was far too disappointed, not to mention politically shrewd, to claim this as a welcome improvement but it is a sign of how bad things have become at Ibrox recently that there should positives to talk about following a 3-1 semi-final defeat on their own turf.
As bereft as the Ibrox supporters who sullenly departed Govan yesterday undoubtedly felt, they did at least have the dubious consolation of a performance far removed from the shambolic outing in last week's Ramsdens Cup final, and one which could well have harvested a trip across the city for May's final had it not been for some panicky finishing and the glaring mishaps which led directly to at least two of the three goals.
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Where all this left the Rangers manager, if indeed he is fighting to save his job in this uncertain era, was difficult to ascertain. He was left dancing on a pinhead, defending arguably his side's best post-liquidation performance - one which illustrated his team had "top-flight ability" - yet nonetheless insisting it also displayed how much his side still needs to develop.
"I am bitterly disappointed," said McCoist. "I thought we were the better team for the majority of the game, and it was just poor decisions that cost us. We slit our own throats. The goals we lost and our level of finishing wasn't what it should be."
He sidestepped the issue of whether this or last week's Ramsdens Cup capitulation to Raith Rovers was the more wounding. "Both of them," he said. "All defeats are very, very difficult to take and this is a really, really sore one.
"Individual errors and decision- making at vital times cost us, but the level of performance - although it sounds like I am contradicting myself - I would have to say I was pleased with," he added. "It has just confirmed what we have always thought.
"I reckon this side has top-flight ability, and that has possibly been shown to be the case today. But it has also confirmed that we have a long, long way to go. The last two defeats have just confirmed to us what we need to do, what we need to add to the squad, shorter term and longer term." Whether McCoist gets the chance to do that or not remains anyone's guess.
While there was mitigation for Rangers even in defeat, Dundee United were left chastising themselves ever so slightly for the standard of their general play, even in the throes of what was a triumphant occasion for them. Jackie McNamara spoke of his delight at guiding the club to their first Scottish Cup final since 2010, this time at his old stomping ground of Celtic Park, against the winner of today's encounter between St Johnstone and Aberdeen.
"We can play a lot better than we did today, particularly second half, but we are just delighted to be there," said McNamara, who also felt his side were probably due a first-half penalty when Steve Simonsen collided with Nadir Ciftci. "I was a bit frustrated with our decision-making and our passing at times. But it is a great feeling, and it gives us something to look forward to at the end of the season. We've not had great results against either [St Johnstone or Aberdeen] this season, so that is something we would like to put right."
No-one was more delighted yesterday than the Turk on the field. After strikes in the first half hour from Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven had been countered just before half time by a Stevie Smith free-kick, a catalogue of errors - most notably from goalkeeper Steve Simonsen - allowed Nadir Ciftci to round the prone goalkeeper and milk the moment to the full before rolling the ball over the line.
"I was celebrating already before I kicked the ball in, so much that I nearly missed it," said Ciftci, who went off into the night preparing to pass on the good news to his agent, former Celtic striker Pierre van Hooijdonk. "I just saw my phone and I have two missed calls. So I have to phone him after this."