Rangers v Livingston - A Christmas surprise or the usual pudding(s)?

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With off the field matters again taking priority in recent days, usually a return to Ibrox for the actual football helps take our mind off such tiresome matters while, in December, allowing us to enjoy the company of friends and fellow bears ahead of the Christmas festivities. Unfortunately, with only two wins in our last six games, it's not only the boardroom that fans have turned their attentions to but the dressing room. Quite simply, all politics aside, the performance of the manager and his players have been nothing short of a disgrace with only a good win in the Scottish Cup at home to Kilmarnock to get excited about for our fans.


Well, what can we expect tomorrow? One 'good' thing is that our opponents are in a similar state of upheaval. SFA ownership charges, tax problems, manager sackings, poor results and falling behind at the bottom of the table mean that Livingston are arguably have the unique status of being in a worse position than Rangers are. Nevertheless, I doubt there will be much oneupmanship on show with both clubs struggling to recover from various insolvency issues in recent times. Santa will certainly have competition for the reddest cheeks as fans of both clubs bear the embarrassment of their ownership's actions. Perhaps we should just give the points based on what support offers most contrition?

All facetiousness aside, tomorrow is a big day for Rangers and their manager Ally McCoist in particular. Already nine points behind Hearts in the Championship race (and the Edinburgh club with a game in hand) means nothing less than three points tomorrow will do if any sort of pressure is to be maintained on the league leaders. Moreover, with a difficult away match against Hibernian at Easter Road next Saturday, it's vital some sort of increase in morale and performance is found.

What does this mean for the manager and players? Well, recent results and displays have simply not been good enough - not just in terms of team performance but individual exploits. Quite simply, there's no player who has featured who can consider their contribution even close to adequate. Meanwhile the manager and his coaching team have also completely failed to apply any sort of change to help address this. Time and time again the same players - often experienced internationalists - let him, the fans and the shirt down. Yet, incredibly, time and time again the same players are selected for the next game. At some point change has to be implemented and faith offered in those who sit patiently in reserve while their so-called superiors fail. Surely, the usual stale and bland first XI has to be altered tomorrow? If not another record low crowd is to be expected.

With that in mind, how can we freshen up the side in light of recent results? OK, we don't have a huge squad - especially with so many fringe guys on loan - but it is big enough with some exciting young players to make the fans (and lazy previously first pick players) take notice.

Let's start in goal with Steven Simonsen. The Englishman perhaps hasn't been one of the most glaring offenders this season but neither has he ever looked convincing in controlling his area, while his distribution is ineffectual and often rushed. Thus, while Lee Robinson may not be a big name alternative, I've seen enough of the lad to see he's capable enough in goal. Further, he's more confident with the ball at his feet so let's play him as a starting point to improve our possession of the ball.

Moving into defence, other than Darren McGregor, there's not been much to shout about in terms of acceptable performances. Indeed, since the recent recall of the temperamental Bilel Mohsni to the side, we've shipped more goals than we care to think about. Meanwhile, captain Lee McCulloch has been awful as his central partner. Surely we can go at least one game without either player? Hopefully Lee Wallace will also be available allowing us a more orthodox back four and two attacking full-backs.

Our midfield have also been a big let down. Players like Ian Black and Nicky Law should be dominating games for us but instead all too often go missing. The latter especially has been far too powderpuff on and off the ball so should not be immune from a spell on the sidelines. Unfortunately, the recent hamstring pull of Lewis Macleod means our creative options are limited - especially with Dean Shiels and David Templeton less than reliable whenever they play. Others such as Aird, Peralta and Smith may be functional but they don't excite fans and lack genuine quality. Thus is it time to see an Andy Murdoch do what Charlie Telfer couldn't and get a game? That is unlikely but we live in hope...

We do have an embarrassment of riches in attack but few of our strikers have really shown what they're capable of recently. Boyd, Daly, Miller and Clark can all score goals but, while they've been limited in terms of chances created, they've played just as poorly as anyone else. In addition the continual selection of one of the first two players completely restricts the options available to our midfield with the team almost always struggling to get in behind opposition defences. Our obvious lack of pace and mobility has to be addressed - there really is no excuses. With that in mind, Ryan Hardie has shown his potential in the development teams - it's time to call upon him for the first XI.

I appreciate the team below definitely won't start the game but if the manager doesn't change anything from recent defeats then his position just becomes more untenable - 12 month notice period or not. Will Ally give us a Christmas surprise or just select the usual puddings?

In any case, let's hope for a much needed win tomorrow afternoon. Merry Christmas to all our readers and subscribers!

Preferred team (4-3-1-2):

 

robinson

foster    faure  wallace

law  black  shiels

templeton

clark  hardie