Leading from the front: Raith Rovers v Rangers

Match Analysis
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Now the transfer window has closed until the end of the season, this is as good a time as any to examine progress at the club. Twenty-two league games played; 18 wins, two draws and just the two defeats means Rangers sit eight points clear of Hibs at the top of the Championship table (albeit Alan Stubbs' outfit have a game in hand). Importantly though, our goal difference is also far better with 64 goals scored and just 16 conceded - effectively giving us an extra point as it stands. Add in an important late winner over Falkirk on Saturday, Rangers fans will be feeling far better from the last time we played them the week before Christmas. There's no doubt 15 points from the last five league games has put us in a much stronger position and most fans are feeling confident ahead of tonight's away trip to Kirkcaldy.

Nevertheless, despite the calm, consistent words of Mark Warburton about having a tight, lean squad it's also fair to say the squad needed improved in a few areas. Nathan Oduwa moved back to Spurs whilst the likes of Fraser Aird and Tom Walsh were sent out on loan to aid their development and increase their playing time. Barrie McKay has shown that, no matter how far out of the picture you may be, there is a route back if you can do the business elsewhere. The fact some of these loan players still train now and again at Auchenhowie (or indeed still play for the under 20s) will help the manager keep a close eye on their progress.

Even if these lads were only ever on the fringes of the squad, the recent unavailability of Jason Holt and Andy Halliday has shown that it's vital to have strength in depth. As such the arrival of players like Billy King, Harry Forrester and Michael O'Halloran not only provide that depth but will ensure a high level of performance from everyone in those positions. Such competition for places wasn't evident last season and it was frustrating to see folk go off the boil without the ability to rotate. Indeed, it's only arguably in defensive areas we lack cover - though the retention of Dominic Ball should alleviate most concerns there. It will also be interesting to see if O'Halloran is used in his favoured wider right role or perhaps more through the middle. With Barrie McKay dropping deeper and centrally of late, they should interchange effectively - along with Waghorn.

Indeed, it's positive questions like these that will be answered via tonight's line-up. Our last two matches have seen a different type of opposition with both Morton and Falkirk more attack-minded than most sides in the Championship. Raith Rovers may well look to counter more than some teams but they'll employ the same two deep banks of four we often see when we have the ball. Once again breaking through such defences won't be easy so that explains why we're perhaps top-heavy with creative players over defenders. Stark's Park isn't the widest (or best) of surfaces either so tonight's match will be as tricky as any other of late.

Looking at the Rangers line-up, if we start in defence, barring injury the usual back five will start. Foderingham, Tavernier, Kiernan, Wilson and Wallace certainly seem to have cemented themselves as Warburton's first choice defensive unit and, despite a few concerning moments in recent games, hopefully confidence and understanding will be increasing with every passing week. Ball and the returning Ryan Sinnamon will provide cover where and when it's required.

Into midfield and this is where it gets a bit trickier to predict the manager's selections. Andy Halliday is available again after his ludicrous one-match suspension so he'll arguably be a certainty in his usual deeper role but perhaps Dom Ball showed enough there to enable Halliday to play further forward if required in some situations. We can also perm two others from Jason Holt, Nicky Law, Dean Shiels and Gedion Zelalem to assume the other midfield roles though, as touched on earlier, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see McKay feature there should Holt not recover from injury.

This leaves another three places in attack and once again the manager has a wide variety of choice available to him. Most fans would like to see O'Halloran start but with no chance to train with his new team-mates he may have to settle for a place on the bench with McKay, Miller and Waghorn all doing well enough of late. Billy King is another who staked his claim with his late d├ębut goal on Saturday but ultimately any change in attack may come down to the fitness of Holt and the positioning of McKay. Perhaps the heavy surface of the Kirkcaldy ground may force the manager's hand?

All in all, if everyone is fit and available I'd expect the selection below but, in the longer term, it may well be O'Halloran replaces Miller in attack. Certainly, there's no shortage of attacking options and that's a positive we all hoped for during the window. It's now a case of literally leading from the front and delivering the Championship title as efficiently as possible. Another win tonight will keep up that much-needed momentum.

Possible team (4-3-3):

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.

Visit Gersnet Forum