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Rangers 3 Arbroath 2: Few positives but points are still taken in flawed display

Relief was the overwhelming reaction at Ibrox on Saturday.

Colin Hamilton, right, battles for possession at Ibrox with Fraser Aird, the young Rangers midfielder. Picture: SNS
Colin Hamilton, right, battles for possession at Ibrox with Fraser Aird, the young Rangers midfielder. Picture: SNS

When there is debate about the future direction of the club, and what it will take to return Rangers to their previous status of challenging for the championship in the top-flight, a slip up against Arbroath would have skewed the thinking.

It was only in the final 10 minutes, when his side were finally in front, that a smile played on the lips of Ally McCoist. The size of his squad and the money that previous chief executives spent on players have been pored over, and a diminished performance would have weighed on McCoist's mind.

His team, though, found the means to win. That ability, to dig out a victory when the display is flawed, is a quality in itself. McCoist would rather that his team were more slick, more accomplished, more ruthless, but the players keep persevering. This victory, and a Dunfermline defeat, increased Rangers' lead at the top of League 1, but that fact has been lost in the ongoing uncertainties around the club's future.

Few people understand more clearly, or with more feeling, the demands that come with being at Rangers. McCoist thrived on it as a player, having absorbed it all as a lifelong supporter. His team remain a work in progress - and there have been plenty of times this season when performances have lacked the zip or quality to overwhelm opponents in a way that would accurately reflect the gulf in resources between Rangers and their opposition - but he has managed through periods of trauma and upheaval.

Patience wears thin at Ibrox, though, and falling behind twice to Arbroath brought out the sharpest anxieties of the supporters, and the players. Two defensive aberrations left Rangers facing moments of crisis, but they managed to dig themselves out of it. There were few redeeming features, other than a grim sense of purpose and a brief but beguiling and effective contribution as a substitute by David Templeton, but they were enough. The winger, though, has to contribute more and find the consistency that has proved to be the most elusive aspect of his natural flair.

"Temps made a difference," said Nicky Law, the Rangers midfielder. "The manager said to him after the game that we should be seeing more of that from him. We all know what he's capable of.

"He's got the talent all right. He's had a tough time with his injuries and they don't help. He gets the crowd going one way or another - you never know which one. He's maybe a confidence player and I'm sure he'd admit that himself. [But] he's got more ability than most."

Defensive errors undermined Rangers, since Lee Wallace drifted out of position when David Banjo scored in the second minute, while Sebastien Faure and Lee McCulloch made rash attempts to win tackles near the halfway line, allowing Bobby Linn to run through to score in the 50th minute. Both goals put Arbroath in front, and Ibrox became tense and grouchy.

"It's tough because expectations are so high here," said Law. "When you are trailing, fans get anxious and you can feel it inside the stadium. It does creep on to the pitch at times but we showed great character to keep creating chances. You'd like the fans to be a bit more patient, but you can also understand their frustrations because of some of the teams they've had here down the years.

"Sometimes you have to take a step back and realise where you are at the minute. It's not the Rangers of two or three years ago, but it will be again."

It was Jon Daly, who otherwise had a forlorn day up front, that equalised in the first half for Rangers, and Templeton, after coming on as a substitute, who did the same in the second half.

Bilel Mohsni also had the ball in the back of the net, reacting quickly after Templeton's shot hit the post. His celebrations were cut short, however, by referee Barry Cook, who signalled the defender had been offside on the advice of his assistant. Mohsni disagreed with the decision.

"When Temps had the ball, I was directly looking at the centre-back near to me," the Frenchman said. "I knew I was onside. The referee made a mistake but we won in the end."

"I don't think it was a difficult game - we just didn't start well in the first half and the second half. After that, we played very well and kept the ball. On the pitch, everyone was confident we would win this game. We just needed to score.

"We missed a couple of chances and it would have been a different score if we had scored more goals."

The winning goal came when Daly was pulled by Colin Hamilton as he went for Andy Little's cross, and McCulloch scored from the penalty spot. "We don't think it was a penalty," said Linn. "Jon Daly seemed miles away from the ball.

"We are gutted we lost and we feel we certainly deserved something from the game. But they can bring on guys like David Templeton, who punishes us."

His manager was equally disappointed. "I thought the boys were excellent and the penalty was a massive blow for us," said Paul Sheerin. "But that's the quality they've got, they score goals out of nothing to get themselves back in it."

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