After a frustrating first half on Saturday where the team went in at half-time a goal down to Motherwell, it's fair to say we improved after the break.
Mark Warburton perhaps said it best on the official site:
"Not our best first half. Kept the ball but never penetrated, and never looked like we were scoring goals.... We had to come out and show more energy and desire the second half. Get behind them, they were packed solid (4 or 5 in there), and we had to make sure we broke them down from the wide areas.."
"Niko opened the pitch up, made it wider. Michael had energy on the far side, and Joe stretched them as well."
"It's difficult when we have a lot of the ball but the midfield needs to come deep to get on the ball. And we were deep and flat we have no penetration. Kenny may come down short, bodies have to get beyond him."
"It's important to use the squad as best we can.... Niko came on and made a real difference, Michael likewise out wide, Joe stretched it."
Personally, I felt the first half was a bit stale. It didn't appear to me that anyone in the midfield was really willing to really drive into the final third and force play in the box. Wallace appeared to be slightly hesitant to make the normal runs he does (although he did make some, but not the usual Wallace - McKay - back to Wallace type runs he usually does). Meanwhile, Forrester didn't give us any width on the right and both he and Miller had to go deep to get involved.
The second half started out with a resurgence of energy and desire to work harder in dangerous areas, and the feeling that a goal was coming was in the air.
After the Kranjcar/Dodoo substitution on the 56', it was quickly obvious that something had changed. Miller was now more effective in the deeper, wider role that still makes him a valuable player. This proved evident on the 65' when Kranjcar found Miller with a glorious ball, who brought it down from his chest to his feet on the run, and tried to poke it past the charging keeper. The keeper did well to make himself as big as possible, but (just like the Motherwell opener) an unfortunate deflection caused the ball to drop to Forrester's feet just to the left of the penalty spot. Forrester calmly passed the ball on the ground to the centre of the goal, with Dodoo offering a useful distraction via just barely avoiding the shot by jumping over it.
Here's a play by play of the Forrester goal from when Rangers gained possession:
The winning goal came from another Kranjcar beauty, but this time from a lovely touch around the defender on the outside of the penalty box, where he then played the ball to O'Halloran just to the right of the penalty spot. O'Halloran oddly tried a right footed shot (when left foot would have been the optimal foot to get it on target). His shot appeared like it was going to go wide, but the Motherwell defender blocked it right to a waiting Kenny Miller at the corner of the six yard box. Miller with a one touch shot put it in the back of the net. Game, set, match!
In terms of actual analysis, what I have done below is track the actual touches that each player had. Missing are the runs they made, defenders they may have dragged away from others, or passes that didn't quite make it to them. That movement and off the ball play is important, but unfortunately is tough to track via a video feed that is centred around the ball.
Kranjcar and Dodoo coming one at the 56' is when the game really got going for me. Starting at half time the team had a very obvious change of tactic, but Niko's passing seemed to really open up the pitch. Niko also had the secondary assist on both goals, and ironically, Dodoo had to avoid being hit by each shot on the goals.
Forrester's goal saw him promptly get swapped for O'Halloran, and while O'Hallorans involvement was limited (he didn't come on until the 65'), he did provide some nice long runs, and stretched Motherwell out wide for the first 15 minutes or so. After that, Tav seemed to be filling up his space, and he was constantly in the box, only a few yards away from Dodoo. His shot on goal from Niko's cross, and its subsequent block resulted in the ball being placed in a perfect spot for Kenny Miller to nail it home.
The amount of pitch coverage by the three is quite impressive, but when you single out Niko, its astonishing how much of the field he was available to be part of the run of play. For someone who doesn't quite seem "match fit", he still seems to pop up everywhere. Perhaps his mobility is a bigger issue? But that's where other players need to cover...
O'Halloran seemed limited to the outside, despite playing and wandering in and around the box for a lot of the later part of his shift. His first touch also did not come until the 68' (almost four minutes after being subbed on). The biggest frustration for him would have been not to convert a fantastic late chance when put clean through by Dodoo.
Similarly, Dodoo didn't hesitant in popping up wide, and serving some balls into extremely dangerous sections of the box, but with no one picking up his position up top when he did this, the balls ended up right at the feet of the Motherwell defence. The same happened in the first half with Kenny Miller having to drop deep or wide to get involved in the play.
Another interesting point is that the three subs combined for 6 of the 16 shots during the match. That's 38% of the shots, in only a 37' span of time. Certainly it seems, once again, the Magic Hat's substitutions proved to be correct. But it also shows that, as opposition teams tire, their defensive tactics will fail more as the game progresses. Patience will be a virtue this season!
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