Rangers return to competitive action in the Scottish Cup Fourth Round tonight at Central Park, Cowdenbeath. Fingers crossed the hard work by the local volunteers and club officials beats the current cold snap. It seems like light years away since we were playing The Blue Brazil in the league given our “journey” this season. Who could forget Hearts beating them 10-0 one week, then us drawing 0-0 the week after under the guidance of Ally McCoist?
Cowdenbeath haven’t had a winter break and have managed to win their last two games against Elgin City and Berwick Rangers respectively. They currently sit fifth in League 2 with 27 goals for and 22 goals against in their 19 games. Unless you follow lower league football, you won’t recognise any of their players. Except maybe one.
Mark Fotheringham. Formerly of the unwashed parish, he is most remembered, not for his actual footballing career which has been decent, but for his potential on Championship Manager (01/02 I think). In the game in which Mark Kerr became an international superstar, Mark Fotheringham was always worth a punt. He is also Cowdenbeath’s current Assistant Manager. A clichéd journeyman professional, Fotheringham has 12 clubs to his name including stints in Switzerland and Cyprus. In fairness, he’s also played for Fulham and Norwich City, where he was club captain.
How will Rangers line up?
Rangers will be looking to use this game to introduce Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe and give valuable minutes to the likes of Borna Barisic returning from injury. Steven Gerrard’s team selection will be an interesting one. I think he’ll go for as close to a first XI as possible but he’ll have one major decision to make. To stick with 4-3-3 or go to a 4-4-2 diamond with Ryan Kent playing behind Alfredo Morelos and Jermain Defoe. Ross McCrorie is suspended and Connor Goldson and Eros Grezda will miss out through injury.
Rangers will dominate possession, that much is pretty obvious. People will ask “why do we need a defensive midfielder against Cowdenbeath?”. James Tavernier and Borna Barisic/Andy Halliday will be playing almost as wingers, a defensive midfielder will be there to cover them and break up and counter attacks. Almost as a third centre half. My biggest worry is, if we keep the same formation, our fullbacks and wingers will get in each other’s way. We’ve seen this plenty times before playing against a packed defence.
There is no chance Rangers will play with the same intensity as the Old Firm game before the break. The one aspect that I feel is key in this sort of game is fitness. Rangers will be vastly superior in this regard. If Rangers press consistently in higher areas, they will get a lot of joy. To get two or three goals in front early on then gives the manager the option of resting and rotating players. High intensity for the first half hour please Mr Gerrard.
It shouldn’t really matter what formation Rangers play, as long as the intent is there. Yes, Cowdenbeath will be up for it, but this isn’t McCoist’s Rangers. As for my prediction, I think Rangers will win 4-0. Hopefully, the game will be done by half time and not be 1-0 going into the last 15 minutes. One last thing, if you’re going to the game, wrap up warm, get the tights on under the jeans, it’s going to be a cold one!
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