A deflected effort has handed Rangers a 1-0 win on their travels to Ross County despite the Dingwall side turning in a resolute performance.
Both sides had chances in the first 30 minutes but no golden opportunities had been created, Ryan Kent’s 18-yard box scramble the closest anyone got to goal in this period. Billy McKay will feel he should have put County in front minutes after the restart after Don Cowie set him up following a Gers error near their own box.
Joe Aribo had a Rangers effort cleared off the line with just over 15 to spare and eventually they took the lead 77 minutes in. Another one of Kent’s efforts took a deflection, this time off Richard Foster and past Ross Laidlaw.
Much of the pre-match chat centred around Rangers amidst their Premiership title charge collapse, encapsulated by a 1-0 home defeat to then-bottom of the league Hamilton. For Ross County, they couldn’t allow themselves to focus on what’s going wrong at Ibrox.
Positive weeks for Accies and Hearts meant County had been dragged right back into the relegation scrap, sitting four points above the bottom three. A good result against the Gers would be a brilliant boost before they play all those beneath them before the split.
Glen Kamara had a volley saved in the opening two minutes as Rangers gave County an early scare. Kent’s first deflected effort was the next to cause a bit of anxiety, eventually going out for a corner after bobbling around in the box.
Stuart Kettlewell and Steve Ferguson’s men weren’t getting much joy in terms of attacking pressure, going into the Rangers box with crosses without real penetration. Liam Fontaine was perhaps lucky to not concede a penalty at the other end.
As the ball hurtled across the box, it seemed to connect with the County defender’s arm as he slid across to prevent a potential goalscoring opportunity. Nothing was given though and County got to half time at 0-0 without much of a fuss.
And within five minutes of the restart they almost had the lead. Cowie robbed Aribo of possession in the final third but in-form McKay was denied by a decent McGregor stop.
Ross Stewart was next to try his luck but he ballooned an effort high and wide despite finding himself in plenty of room at the far-post. County were growing in confidence and Josh Mullin forced McGregor into another great save.
Then it was Rangers’ turn to test their luck in front of goal with a flurry of corners, Aribo and George Edmundson seeing efforts go close to breaking the deadlock. Eventually they made that pressure count.
Kent cut in from the right, firing an effort off Foster as the ball changed direction and into the Staggies net. It was a cruel blow for the home side who had been hanging in during a Gers storm but they couldn’t see it out.
Rangers were able to dig in and grind out a morale-boosting victory whilst County remain in ninth. Here are three things we learned.
Coming off the back of a 4-1 defeat to Motherwell, County had to be solid in defence against Rangers. They’ve got the worst defensive record in the league with 59 goals conceded prior to the Gers meeting, but to their credit, they did well in Dingwall.
Whilst Rangers weren’t a menacing threat all afternoon, the home backline dealt with everything that was threw at them adequately, an unfortunate deflection was what it took to beat them. It should give them a positive boost heading into the season’s home stretch.
The upcoming points run
This will be the last time County face anyone in the Premiership’s top six this term. Games against Hamilton, Hearts and St Mirren await before the split, games in which they’ll fancy their chances of points.
Ferguson and Kettlewell will be pleased with their display despite the negative result against Rangers and both will hope it’s a springboard to securing Premiership survival.
County can’t make pressure count
The first half was a pretty dull affair in terms of chances but the second half certainly wasn’t. County had the better of them during the opening stages whilst Rangers had positive openings in the final 25 minutes or so.
In the end it was Rangers that made one, albeit in fortuitous circumstances, count. The Staggies had their moments but in the end it was chances for the likes of McKay and Stewart that had gone missing.