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: Lewis Macleod – for the second straight match against a Scottish Premiership side, Macleod sent Rangers through to the next round with a memorable goal. Macleod more than held his own against the defending Scottish Cup champions in a performance that saw the youngster persevere through both highs & lows. Early on, he sprung Kris Boyd with a perfectly weighted ball that sprung Boyd past the defenders & really should have led to an opening mark. He followed up a dangerous first half with a stumbling beginning to the second half. He had some forgettable set pieces & missed opportunities – but he was still involved throughout. Whether he was brushing Ian Black aside on a free kick or creating space for a scoring opportunity, Macleod was not backing away from the moment. Ally McCoist deserves credit for allowing Macleod to drift into a more central role as this is where Macleod really began to assert himself. We are seeing a star who is grabbing the spotlight against the most difficult opponents. Couple this with his winner against Caley Thistle & Rangers may need to put Macleod into quarantine during the January transfer window.
Second Star: Darren McGregor – I recently proclaimed Darren McGregor the best center back Rangers have has since Carlos Bocanegra & he proved his worth once again in the shut out of St Johnstone. At this point, it is not a stretch to say that he is the best defender on the team & has worked himself into a starting spot that he has made his own. His defending is clean & clinical as a great degree of his effectiveness lies in his ability to read the play & react before it breaks down into catastrophe. We may have seen the last of Bilel Mohsni given McGregor’s competence & Mohsni’s tendency towards calamity.
Third Star: Ian Black – he had a bit of a rough start but after he settled into the match Black was able to control the play from the midfield with spot on passing & timely defending. Black is at his best when he is clogging the middle of the park defensively & making quick, decisive passes & that’s what we saw from him against St Johnstone, particularly in the second half.
There were some shaky moments from Steve Simonsen as his clearances were sporadic & he almost had another major mishap in the first half – but you know what – that save that sent his head clanging against the goal post was a turning point in the match. If Simonsen doesn’t sell out on that ball, St Johnstone would have played a very different match nursing a 1-0 lead…Richard Foster can be downright awful at times, but on Tuesday night his experience shined through. He made two critical defensive plays that directly prevented excellent scoring chances. Foster played with a great deal of heart in a memorable victory…Lee McCulloch has become the steady presence that is needed in the heart of a back four. Much of that can probably traced back to playing alongside a reliable defensive partner in McGregor.