When it comes to first matches for a manager this early in a season, it’s always difficult to judge from a longer term perspective. There were promising signs, mixed with mediocre moments and some poor, and maybe that’s what we should have expected. Let’s have a look at what people are talking about from the 2-0 win over Shkupi on Thursday.
WINDASS AND MORELOS
There’s a fair bit of criticism kicking around for these players. Personally, I think a lot of it is harsh. It’s absolutely fair to criticise their finishing on the night, and both will be annoyed by that themselves. In terms of work rate and overall contribution, they done okay. Neither were great, but they weren’t as poor as being suggested either. Windass got on the end of around 4 or 5 good chances. Morelos missed a great chance with a header, and linked up well at various times. It was the tracking back of Windass which started the move for the first goal, something he was roundly criticised for last season.
Both players looked to press the game and had somewhat frustrating finishing. Neither player is anywhere near the consistent, finished article just yet. Also, when a game falls into a slow tempo, forward players will often struggle. They both need to play better to keep their places, but the criticism is over the top at this stage.
THE IBROX CROWD
It was a nervous night at Ibrox, but the crowd were as good as you’d expect. A sell-out with no away fans meant there were more Bears in the stadium than usual, and that contributed to plenty of songs and chants. If the team had finished more of the good chances in the first half, it would have been even better.
There were moments of moans, and the ironic cheers for Windass being substituted were regrettable. Overall, though, it was a patient and strong crowd creating a good atmosphere.
Middleton was the player from the Bury match who excited most. He came off the bench as a hyped youngster, and looked absolutely ready for first team football. That was continued against Shkupi. Every time he ran at the right back, he had the beating of him. His energy and direct play were exactly what the team needed at that point. There’s a lot of strength and skill in his game, and he’s certainly capable of being an important squad player.
Many want him to start the second leg. That’s understandable, but I think I’d be inclined to keep him as an impact substitute just now. He is somewhat predictable in terms of what he’s looking to do on the ball, and that can be easier to handle when a player starts than when they come in against tired legs. Experience and games will help him mix things up, but Tuesday night is now a bit tighter and I think he’d be a risk. Gerrard spoke about the way McCrorie was flung in at the deep end last season. He may be wary of doing similar with Middleton.
The team looked a little leggy, as they say, on Thursday night. With only a couple of friendlies so far, and neither of them giving any player 90 minutes, you could see that it was having an effect. There’s no doubt in my mind the team will be fitter and stronger over the course of the season than previous ones. Right now, we may be seeing the effects of not many pre-season matches, something to consider in future.
Anything you’d like to discuss from the win over Shkupi? Tweet us @abouttherangers with your thoughts.