written by – Jamie Currie
The sense of overwhelming positivity, that’s what most Rangers fans were feeling on Saturday afternoon around half-past two – who could blame them? Almost 4,000 of them packed out the South Stand at Easter Road for the first competitive look at Mark Warburton’s Rangers, and by god, they were having the time of their lives as each goal nestled in the back Mark Oxley’s net.
It has been a long four years, finally the fans have something to believe in and get behind. That feeling was only enhanced by Saturday’s romp at Easter Road. Although, in the first half-hour it could have been very different if Dominique Malonga and Jason Cummings had packed their shooting boots instead of leaving them at home. But for all their good pressure it took them until the 14th minute for Sam Stanton to strike from distance to give the home side the early advantage.
To be honest, Rangers looked very uncomfortable at the back in they opening stages and were quite fortunate to be only one goal down. Warburton had Rangers in a fluid system; at times it was going from 4-1-4-1 without the ball and 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 when in possession, with Holt being the man to get up in support of Waghorn in the central area.
But unlike last season, Rangers stood up after going behind and continued to play their football. Jason Holt – who had an impressive 60 minutes – was the man who got taken down by Paul Hanlon on the edge of the box before James Tavernier curled a magnificent free-kick into the top corner. That was the start of a memorable day for the new recruits and management team of Warburton and Weir. Holt and Tavernier were involved again, when the latter’s run and tackle found its way to the magnificent Holt – who then showed great body strength to see off Paul Hanlon’s poor challenge to find Martyn Waghorn in the middle – he produced a typical striker’s finish.
The second half was a show of joyous attacking football. Waghorn added to the lead just after the break – and the Englishman bullied the Hibs defence for the remainder of his time on the park. Apart from Hibs’ soft penalty, they very rarely troubled the defence in the second period. But for Rangers, the other three goals were superb. Mainly because of how they pressed Hibs higher up the park forcing mistake after mistake, like a bear sensing a blood. There has to be a special mention for Andy Halliday whose goal was one right out of the top drawer – going by the celebration he loved every minute of it – bursting with pride. Super-sub Kenny Miller did what he always does: score two typical striker’s goals.
It was a great result and a great second-half performance, but it is only one game. The key for these players is to find the consistency to achieve their main target of winning the title. There is every right for all the fans to be on cloud nine, but there is a long way to go. Mark Warburton and his squad will know that more than most.
As the saying goes: one swallow doesn’t make a summer. The signs of progression are there for all to see, and this game will hopefully provide the springboard for Rangers to end the season with success.