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Rangers 4 Berwick Rangers 2: A Little consolation

It was a measure of the limits of this Rangers display that scoring a hat-trick was only a consolation for Andy Little.

Francisco Sandaza is thwarted by a fantastic save by Berwick keeper Ian McCaldonPhotograph:  Rob Casey
Francisco Sandaza is thwarted by a fantastic save by Berwick keeper Ian McCaldonPhotograph: Rob Casey

The attacker was at fault for Berwick's second goal, having failed in his duties at a corner-kick, and the home side were briefly troubled. Little's third strike restored Rangers' control of the game, but the team still have flaws that need to be overcome, and Little was relieved to make amends for his own error.

The familiarity of this game was not wholly comforting for Rangers. An early goal was welcome, but they opened the scoring at the same time last week and then contrived to drop two points by missing chances and conceding a late equaliser.

Once Little finished smartly from a tight angle, the home side might have considered only by how much they could express their dominance. Instead, opportunities were spurned and there was never a sense of complete authority.

The game tended to revolve around Francisco Sandaza, in all his eccentricities. This was the Spaniard's best performance for Rangers, although there was little merit to that given the mediocrity of his previous displays. Even so, he was engaged with this encounter, and was involved in most of Rangers' incidents. The opening goal, for instance, came after Sandaza made room for himself inside the penalty area, only for his shot to be deflected into Little's path.

The respective performances of the two players were contrasting. Little was decisive in his finishing, and tended to be direct and sure-footed, at least in attack. Sandaza played with more subtlety and creativity, but was more haphazard. The Spaniard ought to have scored four in the first half alone, but there was not enough accuracy to his finishing.

There was misfortune, too, when he slid towards David Templeton's cross but could not quite reach the ball.

Two other efforts flashed across the face of the goal, while Ian McCaldon, the Berwick goalkeeper, raced out to put Sandaza off on another occasion. The Spaniard was in his pomp – it was possible to see the player Ally McCoist thought he was signing – with his close control and deceptive running with the ball mostly keeping him out of the reach of the Berwick defenders, but it fell to others to make this an effective display.

Little struck his second goal with a volley from Templeton's cross just after half-time, then Templeton converted a similar chance after Sandaza had measured a cross into this path. Rangers, then, were in command, but old vulnerabilities had not been discarded. The defence could still be breached, and the lead was made to look fragile when Berwick were allowed to be assertive.

Ross Gray might have been inconspicuous, since he had just come off the bench when the visitors were taking a corner. He was afforded enough time, certainly, to strike a low shot past Neil Alexander with his first touch. Seven minutes later, Fraser McLaren scored from another corner heading Lee Currie's delivery beyond Alexander.

"I'm really disappointed with the two goals we lost," said McCoist. "Ross [Perry]'s initial header wasn't good enough, then Little didn't defend the front post area well enough at the corner. That's the second time in two weeks we've lost goals to inswingers, so it's something that we're not happy about."

By completing his hat-trick with a well-struck left-foot shot from the edge of the area Little redeemed himself, while also returning the team's self-assurance. It wasn't enough to bring a goal to Sandaza's play, with the Spaniard increasingly resembling an angst-ridden figure in front of goal.

When he dribbled past two defenders, then the goalkeeper, only to stab his shot wide, he fell on to his back in the goalmouth. The home fans began to applaud him, out of compassion, and he eventually clapped back.

"He did everything apart from score," McCoist said. "I felt for him in terms of not getting a goal, but I was happy with his performance. His contribution was very valuable to the team, you could see him just getting back to his old self. He makes things happen.

The manager added: "At times, some of the football was good and we had more of a cutting edge to our play. We could and should have had more goals."

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