Rangers continued their good goalscoring form of late with a 4-0 win over Ayr United at Ibrox. The win means the team have yet another League Cup semi-final to look forward to. The quarter-final match started a little slowly, but once Rangers got in front they were utterly dominant. Even with a number of changes to the team, the attacking threat was still evident.
Here is a report and analysis of how the match unfolded:
Rangers started with Foderingham in goals and Worrall replacing Goldson in defence. Flanagan moved to right back to give Tavernier a rest. That meant Halliday came in at left back, and Middleton made his first competitive start on the left wing. Kent moved to the right, and in midfield, both Dorrans and Ejaria started. Ayr United had Lawrence Shankland up front, looking to continue his good goalscoring form.
Rangers were a little loose in possession at the beginning of the match. The ball wouldn’t stick up front, and passes were going astray. Ayr were first to create a chance of note from a corner. The ball was cleared but worked back to the edge of the box where Crawford met it with a great strike. Foderingham reacted well and tipped the ball over the bar. Just minutes later Rangers had to scramble a cross clear after giving the ball away in midfield.
The nervous start was settled on 16 minutes after Rangers took the lead. A great corner by Ryan Kent was met well by Katic who scored a great header. Rangers had been on the ball more without really threatening, and the goal gave them more confidence.
That confidence was epitomised by Middleton and Kent, who ran at the Ayr defence every chance they got. Ejaria was also willing to try something different on the ball, and he linked up with fellow loanee Kent by somehow keeping the ball under real pressure. Kent’s shot was blocked, however. Morelos also had a decent chance on the turn, but couldn’t connect properly.
The second Rangers goal came on 31 minutes. Middleton played a smart ball to Halliday and kept his run going. Halliday played a perfect pass over the Ayr defence which Middleton ran onto and finished well. The youngster was impressing on his first competitive start and deserved the goal.
The half ended with Rangers 2 goals clear and looking comfortable.
Only 5 minutes into the second half, Rangers extended their lead. A corner from Kent deflected off an Ayr defender and fell to Morelos. The striker used his strength to bundle the ball home with his back to goal. Play wasn’t allowed to restart before he was substituted for Eros Grezda so as to keep him fit for upcoming matches.
It was a different look to the Rangers attack. Grezda, Kent and Middleton were interchanging between the three advanced positions. Ryan Kent, in particular, was finding space to turn and run at the defenders. One of those runs saw him pass to Grezda and almost get on the end of a ball back through to him.
Ejaria had a good effort after beating 3 players in one move, but he shot wide from distance. Grezda had also saw his shot blocked and easily saved. The fourth goal was coming, and it was a nice move that led to it. Pressure from Rangers had seemingly been dealt with, but Halliday found himself in space in the center of the park. He played a good ball through to Middleton, whose first touch beat two defenders. He held off the man trying to track him and slotted the ball past the goalkeeper to score his second of the night. The control and strength were impressive, as was the composure in the finish.
Rangers had a couple of good chances to add to the scoreline. A break from Kent saw him turn inside and shoot. Had he squared it to Grezda, the chance may have been better, and Kent’s shot was well saved. From the rebound, Middleton took a touch and tried to get his hattrick, but shot wide of the near post. Middleton almost set up Grezda for a tap-in with a cross from the right, with the ball just evading the new signing after a slight deflection.
This was a comfortable night for Rangers overall. Gerrard was able to make a number of changes and give players time on the park who needed it. The average age of the starting team was around 23, and that youthful approach was exciting in periods of the game. Ejaria, Kent, Middleton, and Halliday all particularly impressed. There were some loose moments, and some patches where the decisions were poor, but what could have been a tricky tie was easily dealt with. Key players were given time to recover which will be vital going forward.
Foderingham; Flanagan, Katic, Worrall, Halliday; Ross McCrorie (Kelly, 69), Dorrans (Rossiter, 56), Ejaria; Kent, Middleton, Morelos (Grezda,50)
SUBS NOT USED: Robby McCrorie; Wallace, Goldson, Arfield.
Doohan, Harvie, Kerr, Rose, Geggan (Moffat, 52), Crawford, Forrest, Adams, Shankland (Moore, 76), Murdoch (McDaid, 65), Smith.
SUBS NOT USED: Hare-Reid, Ferguson, Bell, Docherty.