Inverness CT 1 Rangers 4: Gers get first win since administration to lift the mood
It won’t brighten the bigger picture or soothe any of the painful announcements still to come.
Yet, in what might well be a last hurrah for some, the Rangers players summoned a display full of pride and bloody-minded defiance to win a football match in thoroughly convincing fashion.
After 13 days of unremitting gloom and misery, here were a couple of hours that their suffering supporters could at least enjoy to the full. For Ally McCoist’s squad, it was also a brief interlude in which they held the power to determine the outcome.
The question now, of course, is whether all those involved in thumping a feeble Inverness – and many more in the back offices of the club – will still be under employment when the Ibrox club host Hearts on Saturday afternoon.
Back in the groove: Sone Aluko (right) celebrates scoring Rangers' second alongside fellow scorer Steven Davis
Inverness CT: Esson, Graeme Shinnie, Gillet, Williams, Meekings, Hayes, McKay, Tansey, Ross, Tade, Foran.
Subs: Tuffey, Tokely, Tudur Jones, Proctor, Sutherland, Winnall, Gnakpa.
Rangers: McGregor, Perry, Goian, Bocanegra, Broadfoot, Aluko, Davis, Edu, McCulloch, Little, Kerkar.
Subs: Alexander, Healy, Bedoya, Celik, Wylde, Hemmings, McCabe.
Referee: William Collum
That will be down to the gentlemen of
Duff & Phelps as they consider what must happen next in the process.
Certainly, though, the next 72 hours have an uneasy look about them
after joint-administrator Paul Clark was quoted on Sunday as saying
there will be cuts in the coming week.
Last Thursday, the Rangers players and staff were paid their February
wages in full. But it is now almost March. The new month dawns this
Thursday and there would seem a bleak logic about making serious
staffing considerations before people do work for which they might not
There is also the further issue of what criteria could be used to
determine who stays and goes from McCoist’s squad. Despite their high
earnings, it would seem unthinkable for the likes of Steven Davis – who
opened the scoring on Sunday – for Allan McGregor to be axed when they
could earn worthwhile transfer fees in a few months’ time.
But what of the others who found the net in the Highlands
Sone Aluko is
out of contract at the end of the season, albeit with Rangers holding a
two-year option. Youngster Andrew Little could either be viewed as
expendable or cost-effective, while Lee McCulloch still has 15 months
remaining on a well-paid deal.
Those ugly decisions look set to be made soon, but Sunday provided a
temporary reprieve from the whirlwind of relentless negativity. With
visiting fans making up around half of the 6,416 crowd inside the
Caledonian Stadium, they were rewarded by a performance that would have
secured three points even if Inverness had not been quite so dire.
It was an outcome that punctured some of the pre-match predictions.
Indeed, the 4-1 on offer for Terry Butcher’s men at the stadium
bookmakers caught the eye of more than a few locals as they rolled into
the ground before kick-off. Their belief that money could be made was
heightened when the Rangers team was read out to reveal the unlikely
attacking pairing of McCulloch and Little – with further starting roles
for fringe men Salim Kerkar and Ross Perry.
With their opponents haunted by the fear of the axe and depleted by
extensive injuries, it seemed the ideal opportunity for Caley Thistle to
record their first home win over the SPL champions since December 2006.
There were early flickers to give hope to the Highlanders who had parted
with their cash as Gregory Tade menaced Rangers right-back Perry
without ever supplying a final ball of quality.
Consolation: Steve Williams scores Inverness' goal
But it was a brief glimmer. Instead, they were left counting their
losses from just the sixth minute as McCoist’s side swept forward to
open the scoring.
A series of swift passes led to Maurice Edu feeding the ball neatly out
to Kerkar. He could have chosen to drive at goal off his left foot, but
rather delivered a little dinked cross that was smartly turned into the
net by the onrushing Davis. It was perhaps fitting that the captain, a
leader of the dressing room in their talks with PFA Scotland, should
score Rangers’ first goals since the plunge into administration.
Billy McKay flashed an attempt at an instant reply across McGregor, but
the home side really should have been 2-0 down after 14 minutes.
Some nimble link play allowed Davis to gather possession on the left
fringe of the penalty area before scooping a cross to Aluko in acres of
space just beyond the far post. It’s fair to say, however, that aerial
prowess is not high in the armoury of the skilful Nigerian winger, who
could only nod into the side-netting.
As it was, though, that miss only delayed a doubling of Rangers’ advantage for a couple of minutes.
Little rolled Graeme Shinnie to charge down the right flank and thump in
a low cross just as the toiling defender got back to challenge. Kenny
Gillet blocked McCulloch on the six-yard line but the ball broke for
Aluko to coolly pick his spot inside Ryan Esson’s right-hand post.
Three and easy: Andrew Little slots home
McGregor had to react smartly to block a Greg Tansey effort but,
remarkably, the Ibrox men cantered up the pitch to make it 3-0 nine
minutes before the break.
Kerkar produced the pass of the half to send Little clear in the inside
left channel, with the young Northern Ireland international planting an
angled shot beyond Esson for just his second goal for Rangers.
There was still time for Inverness to salvage some pride before the
interval as Steve Williams converted from Tansey’s corner, but this had
been a bruising 45 minutes for Butcher’s men. Not for the first time
this term, the volume of the dressing-room ranting would have been
Only a great Dorin Goian block prevented Inverness from clawing one back
just after the restart but there was never any real sense of a
remarkable resurrection developing.
Goal-line heroics from Shinnie and Esson denied Edu and Davis at the
opposite end before Rangers claimed their fourth in the 73rd minute.
Kerkar twisted to poke in an angled shot that was blocked by Esson but
netted on the rebound by McCulloch.
There was still time for the same player to shudder the underside of the
bar with a fierce strike before the final whistle drew Rangers players
and fans together in applause. What happens next is out of their hands.