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Rangers 2 Brechin City 1: Another win not enough to silence the doubters

THE Rangers squad has, despite a couple of scares, survived the January transfer window unscathed.

Jon Daly leaps to score his side's second goal at Ibrox; it would prove to be the winner. Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA
Jon Daly leaps to score his side's second goal at Ibrox; it would prove to be the winner. Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA

And although the first team are not performing brilliantly, they have a developed a useful knack of winning.

Saturday's 2-1 triumph over Brechin City was their 22nd in SPFL League 1 and their 28th in all competitions. In fact, only twice have the Ibrox side not emerged victorious: in the League Cup defeat away to Forfar early in the season and the draw with Stranraer in December.

As such, Rangers remain unbeaten in league football and have created a almost insurmountable 23-point advantage over Dunfermline back in second place. And the supporters certainly do not yet seem tired of triumph: another 40,577 made their way to the ground on Saturday.

Yet for the all on-field prosperity, this remains another season of discontent down Govan Way, for many reasons. Rangers' off-field issues, of course, have been well-documented, but there have also been grumblings of late focused on the performance of Ally McCoist, despite his side's near-flawless record.

Some supporters, despairing at this negative assessment, staged a very loud and vocal show of support for the Rangers manager on Saturday. A giant banner was on display in the Broomloan Road Stand, unfurled before kick-off by fans' organisation the Blue Order. 'Ally McCoist MBE. Player. Manager. Supporter. Legend.'

All of those descriptors are true, of course: he played for the club, he supports the club and, as the record goalscorer, he certainly qualifies as a club legend. And he is the manager.

The question, though, for some supporters, is this: is he the right manager? His abilities as a motivator, a tactician, as a judge of talent, are currently the subject of some debate among followers of the club.

And his doubters will surely point to performances like this one against Brechin when arguing their case. The sending off of Bilel Mohsni - a needless dismissal - in the second half caused the home side to unduly struggle in the latter stages. "The sending off definitely changed the pattern of the game," admitted McCoist. "It put us under pressure that we didn't need to be under for a long periods in the second half."

Even with 10 men, though, and especially when the teams were numerically consistent, Rangers should - with all the comparable might at their disposal - be able to dispense with sides like Brechin with far greater comfort at home.

The hosts controlled the first half, but only Dean Shiels and Jon Daly could get themselves on the scoresheet, and that lack of ruthlessness nearly saw them punished after Steven Robb scored a screamer and a dominant Brechin pushed in vain for the equaliser that never came.

"It is never over until you kill the teams off," acknowledged McCoist. "That was proved in the second half on Saturday. We were hanging on during the last five minutes. It was a strange game. There was no way we could have foreseen that we would be hanging on at the end as we came off the pitch at half-time given how well we had played.

"Dean Shiels had scored a great goal and Jon Daly got the all-important second goal. We should have added to our tally, but their keeper made a few great saves. We have to kill teams off."

There is a caveat to any criticism of McCoist, of course. It seems unfair to dismiss him as manager until he is allowed to settle himself in the role without any external distractions, something he has not been afforded the luxury of so far. Strengthening with free transfers, currently oper­ating with the threat of cutbacks; you wonder how McCoist might fare if he is at last able to focus solely on football, with a transfer budget to match the size of the club.

It is worth remembering that during the brief period when he was charge of a comparably stable team, it was McCoist who targeted Lee Wallace, then at Hearts, after succeeding Walter Smith as manager. Nobody could argue that Wallace has not been value for money, and that £1.5m transfer fee seems paltry now when you consider the service the full-back has provided.

He was man-of-the-match on Saturday, he has been the best player for Rangers all season, and will no doubt be a key figure in the progress required for Rangers to climb back up to the Premiership. As will McCoist, despite wearying questions about his suitability for the role.

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