THE first hurdle on the path that Pedro Caixinha hopes will eventually lead to league titles and European trophies has been safely negotiated. Just what the Portuguese can achieve during his tenure as Rangers manager will become clear in the weeks, months and possibly years ahead, but as he sets about pursuing his short-term objectives this was the ideal start.
The gap to second-placed Aberdeen remains at eight points but this comfortable victory at least keeps alive Rangers’ chances of catching the Pittodrie side over the nine league games that remain. The international break will give Caixinha further time to work with the players as he looks to impose his style and philosophy, but there will have been plenty here to be satisfied about when he pores over the footage again in the coming days.
Granted, he could not have hand-picked an easier opening mission. Hamilton, thudded 6-0 here a fortnight ago in the Scottish Cup and then 4-0 at Tynecastle last weekend, look a side completely bereft of confidence following an arduous run of fixtures, burdened by the debilitating twin traits of not being able to score and not being able to defend. Once Rangers went in front in the 26th minute it became just a matter of how many they would go on to score, the result never in doubt. This was the sort of start all new managers must dream about.
Caixinha’s entrance had been low-key, meeting the pre-match applause by striding out to the edge of his technical area before waving, almost sheepishly, to the four stands. Once the commotion had died down, he remained in place, staring out at the pitch, waiting for the game to commence. It soon became clear he had no intention of milking the moment where there was work to be done, although there was a brief explosion of joy after each of his side’s four goals.
His opposite number Martin Canning later said he did not notice any major differences stylistically between this Rangers side to the one he had faced two weeks earlier, but there were a few tell-tale signs of Caixinha’s influence. Rangers’ shape shifted from an initial narrow 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1, with play worked wide quickly and James Tavernier and Lee Wallace encouraged to get forward and feed early balls into the box. Judging its effectiveness is difficult given how limited the opposition were – an ambitious Ali Crawford overhead kick was Hamilton’s only shot on goal – but the end result undoubtedly justified the means.
Jason Holt was announced over the stadium PA as the man of the match but Tavernier made a decent case as well. The full-back was involved in the first goal after 26 minutes, working a 1-2 with Kenny Miller, before crossing for Emerson Hyndman to usher the ball across the goal line.
The second goal arrived after 41 minutes and ended any lingering doubt over the overcome. Jon Toral, who showcased some nice touches throughout, swept over a free kick and, with Accies failing to clear, Clint Hill was in the right place to touch in his third goal from his last three matches.
Ibrox purred contentedly and they had another goal to cheer 10 minutes after the re-start. Massimo Donati tripped Martyn Waghorn in the box and the forward rose to thud his penalty straight down the middle and past the diving Gary Woods. The fourth and final goal arrived 16 minutes before the end. Miller fed Waghorn and his back-heeled pass fell sweetly for Wallace who swept in a shot from a tight angle.
The result, combined with Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s derby draw with Ross County, had the effect of sending Hamilton to the foot of the table but Canning was not unduly worried about his side’s prospects.
“It’s never nice when you’re at the bottom of the league,” said the Accies manager. “But we have just come out of a real difficult run of games against Celtic, Aberdeen and Hearts – and won the one game at home against Aberdeen. It’s frustrating but to play the top four teams five games in a row is a really tough run of fixtures. I believe each of the next nine games is winnable and we need to go out and back that up.”
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