Three Stars of the Game
Inspiration: After each National Hockey League game — the local media votes for the ‘Three Stars of the Game’ — basically the Man of the Match — but as a treble! So in that spirt – here are Rangers Three Stars of the Game.
First Star: Cammy Bell – clearly Bell was the difference for Rangers. If he hadn’t literally saved the game in the second half, there could have been a very different narrative emanating from this match. He confidently saved a Falkirk free kick in the 52nd minute & then seconds later, relied on some heroic reflexes to deny the Bairns from point blank range. The saves seemed to spur Bell on as he aggressively controlled the penalty area rather then passively allowing his defense to do the dirty work – which often has been his norm. This was Bell’s best, & most important, performance in his brief Rangers career. Bell’s outing was even more impressive given the physical beating he took on two occasions – early in the match he appeared to have picked up an upper-body injury & then in the second he was the sandwiched by Bilel Mohsni & the goal post. It should be a sore weekend for the former Kilmarnock goalie.
Second Star: Fraser Aird – entered the game for the final twenty minutes & was a real difference maker in his brief time on the pitch. The Canadian struggled at first as he found it difficult up the left wing – but on a breakaway in the 78th minute he was able to use his speed to put Falkirk on their heels. The decision to cut the ball inside was the difference in the play, as he squared it to Lewis MacLeod for the opening tally. Soon after, he created some chaos in the Falkirk goalmouth off of a corner kick & nearly slotted home a follow-up goal. Then in the 87th minute he floated in a dangerous ball into the penalty area that eventually led to Kris Boyd’s disallowed goal. This was the first time that Aird has looked healthy since a pre-season knee injury buckled his play. We’ll see if he has done enough to supplant David Templeton from the starting eleven for Monday’s match vs. Clyde.
Third Star: Marius Zaliukas – sometimes if you don’t really notice a defender during a match – then he may very well have done his job efficiently. So, after a subpar team performance – Zaliukas deserves credit for not being noticed – denoting no major mistakes made. (Sometimes finding a third star can be a stretch, I must admit)
Lee Wallace struggled again to impact the match offensively but he deserves credit for his strong defensive play – particularly in the first half…Nicky Clark came on for the injured Kenny Miller & seemingly proved the theory that he is in a position to learn from watching the veteran forward. He was active from the get-go, & seemed to feed off his partnership with Kris Boyd. His goal was a true poacher’s goal – so maybe he’s already learning from Boyd as well.
It was a surreal night for the talented Lewis MacLeod. No one really expected Ally McCoist to play the youngster in his natural position in central midfield (too logical, I guess), but what was surprising was how much MacLeod struggled throughout the match. His passing was uncharacteristically poor, his first touch failed him repeatedly, & for the first time he really looked to be in dour spirits. As he struggled, you could see his confidence deflating like a burst tire. Hopefully, the deflected goal that he slotted home will help him bounce back. But questions must be asked if his progress is being stunted by constantly playing out of position. Arguably, Rangers most talented prospect – the manager should do his best to put MacLeod in a position to succeed – not set him up for frustrations…Bilel Mohsni was his usual self, as he marked his return to action from a two game suspension. He coupled dominant play in the air with unfocused defending that almost broke the backs of the Rangers defense. His distribution out of the back was lacking purpose & eventually became the calling card for mocking cheers from the Falkirk crowd. Clumsy tackles eventually led to another predictable booking…David Templeton nearly opened the scoring in the opening moments of the match with a sweet strike that went inches wide of the goal. Alas, it was all downhill from there. The effort was evident & he was able to draw a few fouls but ultimately Templeton was absent from the action all night…Remember when Nicky Law earned the nickname of the ‘Bald Iniesta’? No…me neither. Law had no impact on the match in the first half, as the player that is expected to drive the play forward from the heart of the midfield – Law continues to struggle mightily. Boyd & Miller saw little, to no service come their way for most of the match & Miller clearly is trying to spur Law on but it’s to little success. He did trigger Rangers second goal – but that was came more due to Falkirk completely switching off defensively. I think even Kyle Hutton could have turned that into a goal.