It's not how you start...
As the song says “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish”, which should provide some crumb of comfort to Rangers fans following the league opener draw at Ibrox on Saturday. Unfortunately, on the return of Rangers to the top flight of Scottish football, the team fell flat and failed to deliver. The much heralded midfield due of Niko Kranjcar and Joey Barton failed to be able to dominate a Hamilton midfield that were no more than workmanlike. Kranjcar in particular looked anything but match sharp and his starting berth against Hamilton looked undeserved. His inclusion in the side robbed the Rangers midfield of energy and mobility. He has a few hard weeks on the training ground before him before he should be considered for another start. Providing him with game time can be the only possible reason that Mark Warburton decided to wait till the sixty minute mark to substitute him as the game had passed him by.
The effect of the substitution was immediate, however, as almost with his first touch, Forrester provided a pass to Waghorn for the equaliser - and suddenly Rangers had an energy and vitality in midfield they had lacked for the first hour. However, for the rest of the match Rangers huffed and puffed and it was no surprise to see a draw as the scoreline at the final whistle.
It was a poor, insipid performance from the start and questions really have to be asked of Mark Warburton re team selection and formation. Worryingly, the midfield is an area that on paper at least looks stronger than last seasons, yet the haranguing, pressing and speed of pass we seen last year was, for the most part, missing with Hamilton Player-Coach Martin Canning commenting post match that his team were “reasonably comfortable”.
While one game into the season is patently too early to be talking about any kind of crisis, the honeymoon period for Mark Warburton and his team is now well and truly over. The Championship is history, lessons must be learned quickly and Rangers must deliver performances week in, week out against organised, fit teams a level above that which they played last year.
However unrealistic it is deemed within the corridors of Ibrox - and given his recent interview Dave king disappointingly appears to already have settled for second place - Rangers fans expect to win every game. The bar is always set high. The next league game against Dundee is already being talked about as a “must win” game.
Drawing at home against the team who are favourites to finish the league in last position was not a good start and If things continue in this vein then this Rangers team will be anything but the “competitive” team Mark Warburton has recently said they will be this season. He may be better advised to have a word with Mr King with regard to further signings, or second may be the very best we can hope for, rather than the least he expects.