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.
This Saturday, Rangers welcome Falkirk to Ibrox Stadium for the first time in two seasons. Falkirk have already suffered two defeats at the hands of Ally McCoist’s side so far this season, however they will take a lot of confidence from their good showing in the first meeting between the two teams earlier in the campaign. Saturday’s fixture is an important one for both sides: Peter Houston will be looking for his side to continue their tilt for the play-off’s, meanwhile Ally McCoist will be under no illusions as to how important it is they pick up three points with a trip to league leaders, Hearts on the horizons.
As this important league fixture beckons let’s have a look at the big three factors Rangers should be wary of ahead of the arrival of “The Bairns.”
Falkirk: The Big Three
1. Upturn in performances
Following a dismal away performance against Queen of the South at Palmerston last month Falkirk have begun to see an upturn in the levels of performance they are reaching. Peter Houston openly admitted just how poor his side were that day and the evidence would suggest that going down three-nil to a team you expect to be fairly equal to is the wake up call his troops have so badly needed. There was an opportunity to put things right immediately after when they faced Livingston at home and although that game finished nil-nil there was a major improvement in Falkirk’s performance.
The Saturday after everything just seemed to click when “The Bairns” hit Cowdenbeath for six at the Falkirk Stadium. The performance that day was everything Falkirk fans have been craving; fast, attacking play, pressurising the opponent and most importantly, goals!
With Falkirk having a bye to the fourth round of the Scottish Cup, the visit of Cowdenbeath was the last fixture they fulfilled and confidence is sure to be high ahead of the visit to Ibrox. With it being the sides third meeting of the season Peter Houston’s team will be under no illusions as what to expect. However, with the recent upturn in performances Falkirk will be confident that they can go to Ibrox and pick up something. If Falkirk play the way I know they can then we should be witnesses to a cracking afternoon’s football, although I am fully aware that Rangers will rightfully be favourites ahead of kick off on Saturday afternoon.
2. David Smith & Rory Loy
If you’d asked Falkirk fans at the start of the season if they’d see David Smith as being one of our most potent threats heading into this fixture they’d most likely say no. That’s because it’s only in the last couple of weeks that we’ve began to see the best of the former Hearts winger. During Falkirk’s last win against Cowdenbeath Smith was unplayable at times, causing absolute havoc to the Cowden defence. His all round play including his service to former Rangers hit man and last season’s top scorer, Rory Loy, was unstoppable.
Rangers will be fully aware of the threats Loy brings after the striker scored the first goal in the League Cup tie between the two sides earlier this season. With all due respect it has been highlighted in recent weeks that Falkirk will create the chances to score against Rangers and if these two key players hit the heights of recent weeks then it could turn into a successful afternoon’s outing for “The Bairns.”
3. Will Vaulks
In recent weeks Will Vaulks has found himself in a new role right in the heart of the Falkirk midfield. Traditionally a centre back, Will has excelled in midfield with his dynamic range of passes and tough tackling attitude providing much needed steel to “The Bairns” midfield. Will has made it clear in recent interviews how much he has enjoyed his new role and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t kept in the same position for the visit to Ibrox.
Not known for his shooting skills Vaulks shocked the Falkirk Stadium by hitting a sensational strike from twenty five yards out to round off a comfortable six-nil hammering of Cowdenbeath. His recent good form has allowed the younger, more forward thinking midfielders around him to support Rory Loy, thus creating more chances – something which Falkirk have struggled with so far this season. To me it is no coincidence that since Will has been put into this position there has been a notable improvement in the performances of Alex Cooper, David Smith and Blair Alston.
Falkirk’s poor record at Ibrox speaks volumes of just how hard it is to go there and get a result. That said, there’s no doubt the recent good performances from Falkirk will boost confidence within the ranks and that the players won’t show any fear towards the coming game. Hopefully both sides will create a spectacle for both sets of fans to enjoy.
You can follow Connor Park on Twitter @ConnorPark2