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Stirling Albion vs Rangers (SFL 3rd) 26/02/2013 KO 19:45 GMT

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On Tuesday evening Rangers pay a second visit of the season to Forthbank Stadium. Back in October, Rangers suffered their first defeat of the season, losing 1-0 to Stirling Albion despite dominating the match, particularly the second half, missing the chance to go top of the table.

 

Thankfully Rangers away form has since improved immensely, to the extent that the SFL3 title looks to be all but in the bag.

 

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Stirling are currently 9th in the table, level on points with bottom club Clyde, but are unbeaten in their last five, of which they have won three and drawn two, so may not be the walkover that their lowly position would suggest.

 

Sebastien Faure speaking ahead of tomorrow's match:

 

A Catalyst For More

 

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SEBSATIEN FAURE hopes his best week yet at Rangers can be a catalyst for him to break into the team on a regular basis.

The former French youth international was part of the defence when Tommy Wilson’s swifts won the SFL Reserve League at Ibrox last Tuesday night.

He then netted his first ever senior goal as he scored the clincher in the first team’s 3-1 victory at Berwick on Saturday afternoon.

Faure has been a peripheral figure at times this term, starting just seven matches and playing in only six more as a substitute.

But still 22 and playing abroad for the first time, his fleeting appearances have, in part, been down to adapting to life in a new country.

Now, however, it seems there may be an opportunity for him to impress following his second-half outing at Shielfield Park.

Faure replaced Ross Perry in the team and he is now out for the foreseeable future with both a broken nose and a torn hamstring.

Emilson Cribari was also unwell at the weekend so it remains to be seen if he will have recovered in time for tomorrow’s match at Stirling Albion.

That means there is probably a gap needing filled in a central position next to Chris Hegarty for the trip to Forthbank at least.

And with 11 games to go until the summer break, Faure wants to make the most of the weeks ahead after breaking his duck for the Light Blues.

He said: “I am very happy because it was my first goal for the club and it was the first of my career as well.

“It was a very difficult game for us with the snow and the pitch but to win 3-1 was good and the manager was pleased. It was very cold but I liked it.

“I had a good week and for me, it was very important to play on Tuesday in the game when we won the Reserve League.

“I played the full game and we ended up as champions. That was good for me and after playing on Saturday too, I hope I can now play against Stirling.

“I am still young. I am only 22 and this is my first season here at Rangers. It has been a big change for me to come to Scotland but this is a fantastic club.

“I have started seven games now and I hope I can make more appearances now in the rest of the season.

“Hopefully I can play tomorrow. That is my hope for every game but that is the choice of the manager.â€

Faure might not have been in Glasgow for long but already understands the need and desire for constant success from Rangers’ supporters.

The team is now 22 points clear in the Third Division and only needs six wins from those remaining 11 fixtures to secure the title.

Despite the silverware being all but secured now, Faure knows the demands are such that he and his team-mates must claim it sooner rather than later.

He added: “We are Rangers and we must win every game, every week. We are 22 points clear and we are top of the league but we must keep going.â€

 

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Ally McCoist speaking ahead of tonight's game:

 

We’ve Come A Long Way

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ALLY MCCOIST is hoping Rangers can erase the painful memories of losing to Stirling Albion on October 6 by picking up three points against the same opponents tomorrow night.

Forthbank Stadium is the venue in which the Light Blues suffered their only defeat of this season so far and the 1-0 result sent shockwaves across the country and beyond.

McCoist, however, believes his players have taken giant steps forward and since the defeat to Greig MacDonald’s men almost five months ago Rangers have won nine successive away fixtures in the Third Division. He hopes this impressive run can be extended this week.

Speaking at Murray Park this afternoon the Manager said: “Results would indicate we’ve come a long way.

"At the start of the season there were rightly question marks being put against us in terms of our away results. We had draws at places like Annan and Peterhead and we lost in Stirling.

"I just feel since then we seemed to have developed a more resilient team and if you’re not going to play wonderful football you can still grind out the results which every team does that is successful.

“So we look to have a little bit more resilience about us but that will definitely be put to the test tomorrow night.

“Forthbank was the venue of our only defeat in the league this season and I can obviously remember it very well.

“It was a really disappointing performance and it was certainly one of the black days of the season so far because generally speaking the league results have been ok.

“So we know what to expect and even the game at Ibrox I thought East Stirlingshire played pretty well and made it difficult for us.

“As I keep saying in the league I don’t think there is a lot between the majority of the teams and on their day they are all capable of beating each other. I would hopefully exclude us a bit from that on recent form and results.

“But Stirling are the only team in the league that has beaten us this year and I thought they played well at Ibrox so it will be difficult for us.â€

McCoist revealed that Lee McCulloch is back in full training this week albeit the Gers skipper will not be available for tomorrow night's game.

Ross Perry is also out having broken his nose and picked up a hamstring injury against Berwick on Saturday.

RANGERS legends Derek Johnstone and Bobby Russell will join the team for all the action at Forthbank and the only way to watch it live will be on RangersTV.tv.

The game is available to buy now at a special pay per view price of £5.99 while Rangers TV plus customers will receive it as part of their package. Click here.

 

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Ever since the defeat at Forthbank in October, Rangers have made a habit of “winning ugly†away from home. It’s not a great habit to have, we would all love to see great performances week in week out, but inconsistency seems to be a prominent feature of this team. In the 1-1 draw with Stirling, it was more of the same but not the result we have been used to in our away games over the past few months.

Positive first half – pressing & building through the middle

Unlike the game against Berwick, it was a positive start from Rangers. From the start the team were pressing high up the pitch similar to the Clyde game. This ensured that Stirling didn’t settle into their shape and allowed us to take control of the game.

We are all fed up of seeing the constant long balls. It’s a tactic that rarely works and it cuts out players who are capable of creating chances. One of the biggest positives from the first half was the build up play through the middle. Both Hegarty and Cribari set the tone; quick passes along the ground into the middle of the park into Hutton or Black. They both had plenty of options when on the ball as well. The full backs were overlapping the wingers, Shiels was dropping deep, Little was looking for space between their full back and centre back. It was refreshing to see a midfielder on the ball who could make numerous passes instead of standing there and looking lost. This positive play would result in the opening goal of the game.

The Little – Shiels partnership

I have mentioned in my previous articles about how Little and Shiels look like they are developing a really good understanding up front. The opening goal of the game exemplified the growing understanding they have. In keeping with the quick tempo of the play, Hutton played a ball into Shiels’ feet who then played a terrific through ball for Andy Little to latch onto, round the keeper and slot home.

One thing that has impressed me with Little is his movement. He is always looking for the gaps in the oppositions defence and as we have seen, Shiels is more than capable of picking out the pass to put him clean through on goal. The goal was quite similar to Little’s opener away at Clyde. With Little and Shiels being on the same wavelength, Little can gain that extra yard over the defence and that could make all the difference.

Although the first half had quite a bit to be positive about, it was the complete opposite in the second half.

Defending from set pieces

During Paul Le Guen’s short time in charge we had a big problem defending set pieces. There was very little aerial presence in that team and we are now seeing something similar.

Even in the first half Stirling were winning most of the balls in the air in our box and we were made to pay right at the start of the second half. As we have seen before, nobody appears to take command at set pieces and I don’t have much confidence in anyone to challenge for a header and actually win it. Sebastien Faure has had limited time at centre back this season despite that being his natural position. Against Berwick he played like a no nonsense defender. He was determined to get the ball clear when that’s what had to be done. This is something we currently lack so you have to wonder why he can’t get into the team.

Loss of focus

The Stirling equaliser seemed to rattle us. Instead of re-grouping and doing the things we had been doing well in the first half, it was now rushed, we were giving the ball away and reverting to playing the long ball. We weren’t getting the ball into Shiels and linking the play anymore, it had become disjointed. All we required was a bit of patience.

Lack of final ball and finish

Despite a good first half we were still lacking that final ball at times. This continued in the second half. Very few cutbacks or crosses were finding a blue shirt and players like David Templeton were trying to do it all by themselves. That is a gripe I sometimes have with Templeton; he is capable of producing moments of real quality but he is greedy at times as well. There were numerous occasions when there was a pass on, whether that was to the overlapping Wallace or across to Naismith on the other side, he was always taking that extra touch to find the space so he could have a shot.

Desperate substitutions?

At the start of the season at Peterhead, Ally put on Kevin Kyle and Fran Sandaza on when we lost the lead. At the time it stank of desperation. We all knew what the game plan was to get back into the game – play it long and hope something falls our way.

When Ally brought on Sandaza against Stirling, I felt like he was doing something similar. It seemed like an admission that we have to punt it long and hope something happens. The logical change would have been Naismith off for McKay. Naismith didn’t have a bad game, but he wasn’t really influencing it in the final third. But Ally decided to keep him on and take off Templeton and Shiels, which raised a few eyebrows. Templeton was struggling to create that chance we needed, but you wouldn’t have ruled it out that he would have a moment of magic.

As predicted, we did resort to the long ball and nothing came of it, as Stirling’s centre backs were fairly comfortable dealing with the ball in the air. They weren’t as comfortable when Little was finding the pace in the first half though.

Player watch – Ian Black

I thought Black had a decent first half. He was pressing high up the pitch while Hutton sat deeper, he played a few good forward passes that led to chances, he effectively spread the ball wide, played at a quick tempo and rarely gave the ball away. We usually get that from Black though, he is neat and tidy on the ball and doesn’t often give it away. But we are looking for a bit more from him.

He doesn’t take games by the scruff of the neck and we really needed that in the second half. We needed him to get on the ball and dictate play but we didn’t see that. He was a bit of a passenger when we needed some quality. This was seen late on when he played a hopeless long ball forward and possession was lost once again. He is a good player to have when things are going well, but don’t expect him to dig you out of a hole when things aren’t going your way.


We have seen some good things from this team over the past few weeks and that was the case in the first half. But there are no excuses for the second half performance. How can a team go from doing so many things right to so many things wrong? I think we lack leadership on the pitch, someone to take control when it’s all going wrong. After nine consecutive away wins that was a really disappointing way to stop the winning run. Let’s get back to winning ways on Saturday and maybe start to see some consistently good performances from this team.

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After a first half during which Rangers looked comfortably in control, the second half performance and the result were a massive disappointment.

 

Images from last night's game:

 

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And here's what Ally McCoist had to say:

 

ALLY MCCOIST admitted his side’s second half display against Stirling Albion was simply not good enough and he was again left frustrated after another set piece goal was conceded in tonight’s 1-1 draw.

Andy Little gave the Light Blues the lead with a fine finish after just 16 minutes and at half-time they certainly deserved to have their noses in front.

But on 51 minutes Ross Forsyth found acres of space in the Gers 18 yard-box to head home Kieran McAnespie’s dangerous free-kick and from there Rangers found it tough to regain control.

McCoist, speaking after the final whistle to RangersTV.tv, said: “I’m definitely disappointed with the second half performance, I actually thought the first half performance was alright, probably better than alright.

“I thought we deserved to be 1-0 up. Andy had a couple of chances to add to that and indeed at the start of the second half we should have been further in front but yet again another set play has come back to haunt us.

“I’ve said all along that when you don’t stretch teams and punish teams you always run the risk of losing a goal and putting yourselves under pressure when the opposition have got something to hold on to.

“That was the case again tonight. We had chances to add to our tally albeit it was a very good goal from Andy. It was a really good one-touch goal and a good finish from him.

“But we should have added to it, particularly in the first half and also at the start of the second. We didn’t do it and defended a free-kick appallingly.

“They then put us under a little bit of pressure with long balls to their centre forward but again we had a couple more great chances to score with Fran and Andy at the end. So I’m very disappointed with the second half display.

“That said over recent weeks it is difficult to be over critical of the team because they are generally picking up points and winning games. We do, however, need to improve on that second half.â€

 

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No sign of Lee McCulloch returning from injury unfortunately. It's fair to say he's been badly missed. But fair play to the bloke, as can be read from the following article from the official Rangers' site:

 

Be The Main Man

 

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LEE McCULLOCH has challenged Andy Little to overtake and pull away from him as the club’s leading goalscorer after he drew level with the Rangers captain’s tally last night.

Little’s opener at Stirling Albion was his 22nd strike of an excellent season so far and his sixth in four outings since moving up front from the right side of midfield.

Although the result at Forthbank was poor as Gers drew 1-1 with the Binos, the Northern Ireland international’s performance was a positive for the visitors.

Little has been one of the Light Blues’ most consistent players this season despite playing in a number of positions.

And after McCulloch was well out in front on the scoring charts, his time on the sidelines over the last eight weeks with an ankle injury have seen him caught by the 23-year-old.

The Gers skipper is back in full training again and isn’t far from returning to the team after a difficult absence.

During his spell in the treatment room, he has been impressed by the way Little has stepped up to lead the line so effectively.

And the former Wigan player admits he’d love his team-mate to edge past him and establish himself as the Ibrox outfit’s number one marksman.

McCulloch said: “Andy has been superb this season. He has been absolutely brilliant at right midfield, on the right of a front three and through the middle as a central striker.

“He even dropped in at right-back once as well and along with his versatility, his goals have been great as well.

“He’s on 22 of them now and he’s flying at the moment. I’m on the same number but if he goes and scores 30 and gets more than me, that doesn’t matter.

“As long as he is doing well for the team and progressing as a player, that is the most important thing.

“I’ve never been a top goalscorer before in my life and I’m not renowned for it so I’m not that bothered about being that guy now.

“If Andy goes and scores another 10 goals this season and he gets more than me, I’ll be delighted for him.â€

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