This season Rangers Report will run a series of Match Previews entitled, the Big Three, prior to each match. Rather then write in generalities about teams I rarely see – we will ask people who follow the opponent on a daily basis to provide some insight on their club. Their task is to identify a Big Three — three aspects of their club that Rangers supporters should keep an eye on.
Written by – St Johnstone 1884
Tuesday night sees St Johnstone return to the scene of April’s Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Aberdeen but this time to face the home club, the first meeting of Saints and Rangers since May 2012. Saints have undoubtedly been one of the clubs to benefit from Rangers’ demotion, with three top six finishes yielding three European campaigns and victory in the Scottish Cup final last season.
This season has been more of a struggle and with Rangers now facing full-time opposition on a regular basis, you sense Saints will need to be at their very best to progress to the last four of the League Cup.
St Johnstone: The Big Three
1. Cup Record
Saints have established themselves as something of a cup side over recent seasons, with seven semi-final appearances in as many years and of course the Scottish Cup victory in May, the club’s first major honour. On top of that, the team have performed well in the cup environment of the Europa League, with memorable victories over Rosenborg and FC Luzern in the past couple of seasons. Another impressive aspect of Saints’ cup pedigree though is their record against teams from a lower division. Whilst Rangers are clearly a different proposition, the squad will surely take confidence from a record, dating back to 2007, that reads 22 wins and one draw from 23 cup matches against teams from a lower league, conceding only nine goals and scoring 67 themselves.
2. Faddy Factor
The loss of Stevie May during the summer transfer window was a huge, if not unexpected, blow to Saints but that was compounded when ex-Ger Steven MacLean was ruled out for several months with a knee injury in early September. May had hogged the headlines with his goals but those connected to the club knew the importance of MacLean and he has been massively missed. With him in the team, Saints had a respectable 3-3-3 record from their nine games this season but since his injury, have collected only one point from six Premiership games.
Manager Tommy Wright moved to replace MacLean with (former) Scotland international James McFadden, a talismanic figure for both club and country over the last decade. With a couple of starts now under his belt, can the former Everton and Motherwell man inspire Saints on the Ibrox stage on Tuesday night?
3. A case for the defence?
Much of the joy that Saints have enjoyed in recent seasons has been based around a solid defensive base and being hard to beat but mistakes have crept in this season, with the concession of a number of soft goals that don’t represent everything the team had to come stand for in recent years. The return of Frazer Wright to the heart of the defence in Saturday’s stalemate at Partick Thistle shored things up and with the team struggling to score goals, a clean sheet at Ibrox on Tuesday night looks pivotal to any chance of success.
You can follow St Johnstone 1884 on Twitter @stjohnstone1884