Rangers got their first win against Kilmarnock in their final home match of the season as they beat the Ayrshire side 1-0. The match wasn’t big on excitement, but the fans were sent home happy enough with the 3 points.
Rangers started the match with Cummings and Morelos in forward areas. David Bates made his return to the side, and partnered Russell Martin. Kilmarnock had Tshibola in midfield, with Brophy and Jones as attacking options next to Boyd. Mulumbu was able to start, and they recalled MacDonald in goals.
In terms of shape, Rangers went with Cummings playing a little deeper in more of a 4-4-1-1. Kilmarnock had Tshibola on the right and Brophy supporting Boyd in a similar formation.
Rangers started brightly, buoyed by the positive mood among the support. Candeias found Morelos with a cross, but his shot under pressure went wide. Cummings was played in, but the angle was tight and MacDonald was able to make the save. On 11 minutes, Murphy had a real chance as he drove at the Kilmarnock defence and hit a shot from just outside the box. Unfortunately, he pulled the shot just a little wide.
That seemed to wake up Kilmarnock somewhat. They made the game rather stop-start through fouls and slowing the tempo down. The referee seemed to be easily convinced by their approach, and made some decisions which seemed questionable at best.
One he did get right, though, was the free kick which led to Kilmarnock’s best chance. With 27 minutes played, Bates conceded a foul just outside the box. Boyd hit a low drive which Alnwick saved, and three Kilmarnock players had followed in. Somehow, Tshibola saw his effort saved by Alnwick from 4 yards out.
With the quality of football dipping as the half went on, Rangers had another couple of chances. A cross from Halliday was headed on to the top of the bar by Murphy. Dorrans had a shot blocked which looked to be heading for goal. The half played out with little else of note and the teams went into the break level.
Much like in the first half, Rangers looked more likely to score. McCrorie replaced Cummings at half time, and saw a left-footed effort go narrowly wide. A good ball from Murphy found Halliday overlapping, and his cross just evaded Candeias in the middle. From a corner on the 54th minute, McCrorie got a chance to turn and hit a right foot shot, but it was a poor effort.
It seemed that Rangers were struggling to create a clear-cut chance, so they replaced Holt with Goss on 74 minutes. The on-loan midfielder added some more composure and creative threat to the side. However, crosses and shots were being blocked, and Rangers couldn’t win the ball cleanly from corners.
It took a set piece routine to open the scoring on the 85th minute. Tavernier and Goss took a short free kick which sent the latter free with the ball. The cross from outside the box found Bates running in at the back post, and he nodded the ball over the line. A sense of relief was noticeable in the team and definitely felt by the support.
As is usually the case when a team is leading by one goal late in the match, Rangers had to survive a couple of chances from Kilmarnock. Greg Kiltie was found in the box with an excellent cross, and his header went just over the bar. The last chance fell to Wilson, who shot high and wide from just outside the box.
It wasn’t a great performance, but it was a vital win for Rangers. Given the disruption in recent weeks and the definite lack of confidence, fans were happy to take the 3 points in whatever way we could. The starting line-up didn’t really work, and McCrorie made a big difference in midfield when introduced. The more dangerous Kilmarnock players such as Jones and Mulumbu weren’t able to get into the game very much. It was slightly surprising that Kilmarnock went with Brophy central and Tshibola wide right, and possibly helped Rangers play a bit better in midfield.
Alnwick, Tavernier, Dorrans, Halliday, Morelos, Candeias, Holt (Goss, 74), Bates, Cummings (McCrorie, 45), Murphy, Martin.
SUBS: Kelly, Hodson, Rossiter, Alves, Docherty.
McDonald, O’Donnell, Broadfoot, Dicker, Boyd (Kiltie, 72), Jones, Taylor, Findlay, Mulumbu (Wilson, 81), Brophy (Erwin, 63), Tshibola.
SUBS: Fasan, Boyd, Simpson, Burke.