26 points adrift & drowning in mediocrity.

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The emotional rollercoaster for Ranger fans took another steep and somewhat depressing plunge last night after our team suffered it’s heaviest ever defeat against the Doonhamers. This loss at Palmerston was our second of the season down there and it was an even bigger shock than the 2-0 defeat back in December when Ally McCoist bizarrely went down and managed the squad despite having resigned his position.

I think most of us probably knew that last night was going to be an extremely tough game, especially when our opponents had just beaten Hibs at Easter Road to boost their confidence and more importantly, their fight for a Championship play-off place. Nonetheless, it was still a shock defeat because we desperately needed and expected another victory following our recent upturn in performances and results under Stuart McCall.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be though and as we witnessed our players slipping back into their old ways and putting on lacklustre and completely unacceptable performances all over the pitch, it must have struck many of us that the night turned out to be more of a show of inability and weaknesses than of football or the strength required of promotion contenders.

Before last night we had already seen notable improvements in the team’s attitude & application which had paid dividends in the form of good results and it’s that upturn in effort and belief which we’re going to need to depend on because without it, our squad of players is virtually drowning in mediocrity. We’ve been watching utter dross on the pitch for the majority of the season and most of us know it.

Maybe I’m being overly melodramatic, but last night was a massive game in our battle for promotion, so the defeat, taking it in such an embarrassing manner and the loss of another 3 points is a huge blow, not only for the manager and his team, but for us fans too. Unfortunately, it clearly feels like we’ve taken two steps forward and one back, but it’s done now and there’s sod all any of us can do about it other than move on to the next game.

Thankfully, while the players might not inspire any great levels of confidence from us and we might not all agree with McCall’s formation and tactics last night, one thing we can definitely say about the new manager is that he’s got a positive and confident attitude to support his experience. That’s something which can rub off on the players and make a big difference to our chances of promotion.

As we look at our league table and note in dismay that we’re a staggering 26 points behind Hearts it’s clear to see that the season’s already a massive failure, but it’s down to the players under McCall’s guidance to turn it around as much as possible by trying to salvage a promotion place and that now starts on Sunday afternoon at Ibrox against Raith Rovers who’ll be looking for their first league win on our turf for 56 years.

That said, they do come to Govan off the back of beating us 2-1 in the Scottish Cup when they last visited Ibrox in February, so despite the fact that we’ve won our previous 3 league games against Raith this season (the last being our 2-1 win at Starks Park in February) we’re also aware that they’re perfectly capable of coming to Ibrox and getting a result against us.

After last night’s poor performance and sobering result in Dumfries it’s fair to assume that Stuart McCall is very likely to make some personnel changes for the game on Sunday, so that’s something I’m sure we’ll all be speculating about right up until Sunday afternoon when the teams are announced.

In the meantime, what we do know at this point is that Cammy Bell, Dean Shiels and Tom Walsh are likely to be back in contention for squad selection, so if all 3 are passed fit to play on Sunday it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the manager brought all 3 of them straight back into his starting line-up. I don’t think many of us would be against him doing that either because Dean Shiels and Tom Walsh in particular have been excellent in recent games before being left out at Palmerston due to injury & fitness niggles.

No doubt many of us will also be paying attention to the earlier kick-off on Sunday at Easter Road and hoping that Hearts get a result against Hibs, but the bottom line is that we can’t rely on other teams doing us any favours. If we want to get to and get through the play-offs it’s absolutely imperative that we win as many points from our own games as possible, so a victory and 3 points at Ibrox on Sunday is a must, especially when we still have some very tough fixtures ahead.

The starting XI I'd like to see on Sunday:

Bell
Hutton – McGregor - Zaliukas – Wallace
Murdoch
Shiels – Vuckic - Law - Walsh
Clark

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