I must concede I've had one eye on this game for a while now. Not because I'm excited about the importance of a vital clash with one of our promotion rivals but, firstly because it's the end of the month and I desperately need paid and, secondly, it's our January Gersnet night out: who wouldn't look forward to a curry, a beer and a chat with Colin Stein and Willie Johnston?! Thankfully, our wee event sold out weeks ago and I'd expect Ibrox to do the same tomorrow - despite a forecast of wind and snow again!
Unfortunately it's not just the weather that's getting a few folk down at the moment. Mischief-making in the media and somewhat negative murmuring from a few fans point to some unhappiness with our activity in the January transfer window - not just qualitatively but quantitatively too. For some, we've not signed enough players and, for others, the ones we have secured aren't good enough or, in the case of Josh Windass and Matt Crooks, need to be brought in now. Add in speculation about the future of Mark Warburton then there's an air of cynicism around forums and social media.
Sure, there's always the slim chance that what is happening privately is different from any public statements but I'm surprised anyone wants to buy into the negative spin with regard to our manager's future. For me, it's pretty simple: the guy joined us knowing full well the league and financial position we were (and still are) in. Further, he's been backed suitably by the board - not only in terms of bringing in several players to completely change the squad but via the installation of his own background team to support his management philosophy. And, so far at least, he and his team's relative success on the pitch has been most agreeable.
Nevertheless, will Warburton be frustrated at being unable to sign players he's targeted? I'm sure he will but he has also been at pains to highlight how difficult this is and, with 'value' as his strap-line, it's not a surprise to see him prefer short-term signings to retain monies for a higher calibre of transfer going forward. After all what's the point in spending circa £1m on a player now when better 'value' can be found in the summer?
On the other hand, of course there's a risk involved with such a strategy. We can ill-afford not to be promoted and winning the league title is imperative for a whole host of reasons - primarily financial. However, given what's happened in recent years, it wouldn't make sense to over-spend on players that may not be good enough for a longer term contract. Much better to bring in players with a short-term 'value' such as Billy King and, perhaps to a lesser degree, Harry Forrester who have a lot to prove. I'd like to think a defensive midfield player will follow ahead of Monday's deadline and that will leave us with a squad more than capable of winning the Championship.
Indeed, with a win tomorrow Rangers can take a rather large step towards that much-needed title. Such a victory would see us move eight points ahead of Hibs and ten in front of Falkirk. Yes, Hibs would still have a game in hand but Falkirk would effectively be out of any race given we still have a game in hand on them. I'm sure the important of the result won't be lost on both managers and, with one win apiece so far this season, nothing can be taken for granted tomorrow.
In that sense, Rangers have some good and bad news ahead of the match. First of all, diminutive attacking midfielder Jason Holt is expected to return from injury while Billy King will also go straight into the squad so Rangers won't be short in a creative sense. Unfortunately, after his ridiculous red card on Monday night, Andy Halliday won't be available which does leave us short defensively. It will be interesting to see who replaces the former Bradford midfielder with Dom Ball perhaps likely to be favoured over Dean Shiels. It's certainly a key strategic decision as Falkirk outplayed us at times in the corresponding fixture just before Christmas - although they are fond of the more direct route, often missing out the midfield entirely.
Moreover, if we look back further to our 3-1 win over Falkirk last October, it wasn't until the last ten minutes before we managed to get 2-1 in front and only an injury-time screamer from Lee Wallace secured the points for certain. Consequently, it's fair to say another tight match is likely tomorrow. As such, not only will the team need to be composed in their play, 45,000+ home fans will need to remain calm also. On and off the park, recent years have been difficult for our fans but patience and prudence will be required virtues as the challenges get tougher and tougher. With that in mind, I'd expect a team along the lines of below which offers a nice balance between attack and defensive cover where and when required.
Discuss this article
Enjoyed this analysis? Disagree entirely? Found a spelling mistake? Whatever your opinion, it's welcome on our popular and friendly message-board.