THIS was not quite the Valentine’s Day massacre which Rangers fans had desired to see as they flocked to Ibrox tonight.

The Glasgow club had the chance to leapfrog Celtic into top spot in the cinch Premiership by beating the second-bottom team in the table by three goals in their game in hand and the excitement among their followers before kick-off was tangible.

Philippe Clement’s side deservedly defeated Don Cowie’s team 3-1 thanks to a first half Cyriel Dessers brace and an injury-time John Souttar goal to move level with their city rivals on points and intensify the pressure on the defending champions greatly.

But this was far from the rout which Rangers supporters had longed for. They met with stubborn resistance from County, who levelled through Simon Murray, and were repeatedly thwarted by their inspired goalkeeper George Wickens. Here are five talking points from the encounter.


Talk about a player going from zero to hero. The Nigerian striker was hardly the flavour of the month down Govan way back at the end of December following his insipid display against Celtic at Parkhead. His failure to shoot when he was clean through on goal with just Joe Hart to beat incensed his team’s supporters.

The 29-year-old, though, has redeemed himself somewhat since. The £4.5m summer signing has now netted on five occasions since play resumed after the winter break. He took his tally for the 2023/24 campaign to 14 this evening.

He got on the end of James Tavernier long ball, held off Ryan Leak and lobbed Wickens in the fifth minute. He then alleviated growing tension around the ground in the fifth minute of added-on time at the end of the first half when he nodded another Tavernier delivery into the bottom right corner.   

Dessers can still do better at times. He should, for instance, have buried his attempt after being put into a dangerous position in the opposition penalty box by Ridvan Yilmaz shortly after he broke the deadlock. He is, though, posing far, far more of a threat in the final third than he did in the first half of the season.

Rangers fans – who now belt out a rendition of “Nice one Cyriel” whenever the former Genk, Feyenoord and Cremonese forward finds the target – have certainly revised their opinion of him considerably.

The arrival of Fabio Silva, the Portuguese striker who was bought for a cool £35m four years ago, from Wolves on loan has given him much-needed competition for his place and is helping to bring out the best in him. He was a deserved winner of the Man of the Match award.


The anger in the stands when the scoreline was 1-1 in the first half was palpable. The Rangers supporters in the 48,858-strong crowd could not believe what they were witnessing. Midfielder John Lundstram urged them to calm down at a County corner.

But Tavernier and his team mates did not allow the abuse that was being hurled in their direction to get to them. They redoubled their efforts and reclaimed the lead shortly before referee Alan Muir brought the opening 45 minutes to an end.  

This is the first title race that many of Clement’s players have been involved in. Even those who lifted the Premiership trophy back in 2021 did so without any fans in attendance because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This gutsy showing, then, augurs well for the weeks and months ahead.  


The Welsh winger is hoping to do well enough to earn a recall to his national squad ahead of the Euro 2024 play-off semi-final against Finland next month – and he has shown flashes of what he is capable of in recent weeks.  

The former Manchester City kid has been given the nod on the left flank by Clement in the absence of the injured Abdallah Sima and has scored important goals against Livingston and Aberdeen.

But he was, aside from a shot that Wickens palmed onto the crossbar, not at his best here. He failed to reappear for the second half. New arrival Oscar Cortes took his place and the Colombian wide man once again impressed. Matondo has to raise his game to keep getting a regular start.


This was not the first game that Cowie, who took over from Derek Adams in the wake of the 5-0 mauling by Motherwell at Fir Park last week, would have chosen to take charge of the County team in.

But the former Scotland internationalist was not averse to making wholesale changes to his starting line-up – he brought in no fewer than five players.

Out went Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Will Nightingale, George Harmon, Teddy Jenks and Jordan White and in came Victor Loturi, Michee Efete, Eamonn Brophy, Leak and Josh Reid. Freshening up his team had the desired impact.

County had a lot to thank Wickens for. The young Fulham loanee, who had performed brilliantly in his first league game in this country against Celtic at Parkhead last month, denied Tavernier, Dessers, Rabbi Matondo and Tom Lawrence.

But the visitors then drew level against the run of play after Brophy held off Connor Goldson and squared into the six yard box. Murray ghosted in from nowhere and fired beyond the cruelly exposed Jack Butland.  

Cowie, who persevered with the bold 3-4-1-2 formation favoured by his predecessor, will be hoping to do enough to get the job on a full-time basis. He has much work to do to secure top flight survival and land the gig. This showing will do his cause no harm whatsoever.  


Cowie could have no complaints about how his relegation-threatened charges acquitted themselves this evening. But he would be quite entitled to have a grumble about the five minutes that were added on at the end of the first half and the seven minutes which were added on at the end of the second. There were no major stoppages at all. But Dessers and then Souttar both netted decisive goals.