An 18-month first for Ibrox club
Whatever the issues that have dogged Rangers this season to see Michael Beale’s position the subject of constant debate, one area has certainly turned for him in the past two weeks. On the back of the cataclysmic week that left him on the brink following the flogging by PSV Eindhoven and desperate derby loss to Celtic, every game on the return from the international break was presented as must-win for the Englishman. Four straight victories have not only been duly delivered, but four consecutive clean sheets too. Across the entirety of last season, Rangers did not post four straight clean sheets. Indeed it was March 2002, with Giovanni van Bronckhorst was at the helm, the club last posted four victories without the concession of a goal.
Crowd turns…but not their backs
The majority of the Rangers faithful seem to have given up on Beale as the man to lead them to the success craved … even as he stands two games away from bringing the League Cup to Ibrox for the first time in 12 years. Such disaffection was made plain in the booing of their team at the end of a sub-standard display that snatched them a 1-0 win over Motherwell at Ibrox on Sunday. They didn’t need to look far for excuses to swerve the encounter with Livingston, then. A storm enveloping the country, never mind their club, made for a miserable night. Even if they had pre-paid for their match tickets, leaving the house must have been a bind, not least with the cup tie being shown live on television. It did for a few, with a number of fans dotted around the entrance to the subway station were forlornly left holding unwanted tickets aloft. However, the physical backing given by the Rangers support to their team courtesy of 35,420 turning out at Ibrox despite the circumstances was pretty remarkable.
Surprise package Sima
The early impressions made by Abdallah Sima in Rangers colours didn’t suggest promise. The 22-year-old, signed on a year’s loan from Brighton, was in fact probably the first of Michael Beale’s phalanx of summer attacking recruits to prompt furrowed-brows among observers. Now perceptions have altered. His controversial opener at Livingston marked his fourth goal in only five starts, with the forward’s run-and-shot responsible for the deflection that earned his team their third on the evening. With a groin problem sustained by Kemar Roofe further reducing Rangers frontline options following the injuries to Danilo and Rabbi Matondo as Cyriel Dessers’ struggles continue, Sima’s importance to the Ibrox men is ramping up.