Being brought up in Edinburgh meant the first places I saw Rangers were at Tynecastle and Easter Road. The predominate result seemed to be 1-1 but on the plus side, I saw Parlane score four goals against Hearts in '74 and Colin Stein score the goal that won us the League Championship the following year. Even the negative (a Hibs win) had a plus, seeing George Best play.
There was the embarrassing moments, when still very wee, my Dad couldn't make it one time and my Mother took me to the Dunbar End of Easter Road, where there were loads of guys pissing at the side of the path and me hoping mother wouldn't take it badly !! One early season encounter had the unusual but topical song of 'Two Popes in a row' ....and an end of season match that was surreal with next to empty terracing. I think this was down to there having been two cup final replays before Rangers had lifted the trophy against Hibs or/and we had lost the league decider against Celtic.
It was usually a very tough game in the capital and that'll be no different this Wednesday against Hibs. We've been generally inconsistent ever since returning to the top tier and have put four wins together only once during those 55 games (in December 2016), we can repeat that with a win on Wednesday but it's a big ask for a team that tends to blow hot and cold.
On the bright side, our away record is excellent and the three games Hibs have lost in the league have all been at Easter Road (Hamilton, Aberdeen and St Johnstone). They've also a day less to recover after a tough fixture on Sunday and, like us, might have some injury doubts.
The negative is that we have a lack of decent battling midfielders from which to choose, more especially if McCrorie is unavailable. The midfield is where Lennon will try and win the battle to dominate the game. Another is the recent record between the teams, which has seen three straight defeats, strangely, all by the odd goal in five.
Going back further, the Head to Head is also negative:
- Since the two teams coincided in the 2014/15 Championship, we've played them 14 times.
- In the 11 league fixtures (including play-offs) we've only won four matches and lost seven (only one win at Easter Road and no draws at all).
- We also lost the Scottish Cup Final but beat them twice in the Challenge Cup.
- Lennon has only been in charge of Hibs for one of those matches.
For those who consider a wager on the goals scored, the last seven fixtures between the teams have produced 33 goals, an average of 4.7 might be an interesting statistic, especially when you think about how the two teams are likely to set-up and play.
As for tactics and formations, I'll leave that to you and only ask that the attitude and determination is there from the very first minute. If it is, then we give ourselves a chance, otherwise it'll be a long night with likely nothing to show for it. It should be a relatively open 90 minutes which may work in our favour, but only if we defend well - as we did in the recent wins over Aberdeen.
Personnel are being whittled down to the point that there are very few alternative options in the middle of the park, it being particularly difficult to put together players who are equipped for a physical battle. A centre half (e.g. Wilson) may have to move forward (as McCrorie previously did). Two of our high earners perhaps aren't suited for this game and only highlight two bad summer transfer windows. As a midfielder, Pena would be bypassed and won't be up for a battle, whilst Kranjcar hasn't the legs and again, would be bypassed.
On the positive side, Morelos is back, should start and his goal on Saturday is a real positive going into this match. As much as Pena won't do any hard yards, Morelos is a tireless team player with an end product. As well as the Columbian, Miller and Windass will both probably start.
In the middle, you've got Holt, McCrorie ('doubtful'), Candeias, Barjonas and not a lot else to consider for a start and it's unlikely much will change at the back.
In conclusion, this is a real test of mettle for the players and the interim manager. Come back along the M8 with three points and I'd start to consider that we may have turned the first corner...but if we are empty-handed, then it's pretty much as we were.
Let's hope it's the former.
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