Semi Preview - Rangers at Hampden

Last updated : 17 April 2003 By Firparkcorner

In all honesty, we’ll probably get stuffed. If football was played on paper, this game wouldn’t even be played, it is that much of a foregone conclusion. But, of course, that doesn’t happen. We have shown several times this season that form and skill are not always enough to win games. Rangers and Celtic have both fallen at Fir Park and that alone will give this team the confidence to believe they can do it again. We are clear outsiders (12/1 with Hills, if anyone is interested) but outsiders have shocked before and will shock again.

The 'Well crown in the 3rd round at Killie
While Terry will no doubt have the team well drilled with a tactical plan, he will also use our earlier Old Firm success as a motivator. Sadly, there are a couple of things lacking from these games in this instance that only the most biased ‘Well fan can ignore. Firstly, the game is not at Fir Park. The wretched playing surface helps bring superior opponents down to our level and the tight dimensions also work in our favour. Even players like Ferguson and de Boer have to pause for an extra second to wait for the ball to succumb to gravity at our place. We can close down quicker and for longer on a smaller pitch and in Peter Lovenkrands, we have a nemesis who we have consistently failed to contain on a larger playing area.

But enough problems. If we are to win we need great performances from at least seven players with the other four also pulling their weight. Frankie will need to be outstanding in goals – no matter how good our defence is, it will cough up at least three quality chances that FdB needs to stop. Our centre halves will need to protect Frankie and give the Rangers’ forwards little time to settle on the ball or place their shots. As we saw against Dundee on Saturday, stopping the shot is a lot harder if the striker has been allowed to make his run unchecked. Whoever has defensive duties on the right hand side, either Cowan, Ramsay, Lasley or a combination, will have to keep a very close eye on Lovenkrands. If reports of de Boer being rested turn out to be true, the Dane probably takes his place at the top of the hatchet list.

We have became accustomed to some nasty play throughout this season and chances are our midfield, probably consisting of Leitch, Adams and Pearson, will be given an ‘anything goes’ by Butcher with regard to stopping Ferguson and Arteta playing passes. Which of ankle kicking, picking fights, threats of retributive violence, jokes about Spanish women or asking the Ned to recite the alphabet backwards works best remains to be seen.

Whether Faddy is partnered by Craig, Lehmann or Clarkson is as yet unknown but he will clearly be the key man in our attacks. He has already shown the that he has the potential to score in big games and you just know he’ll be ‘up’ for this. However, he needs to make sure that while he plays to his talents he remembers that it is a team game. Passes can be made, others can shoot and for goodness’ sake, don’t lose the ball needlessly in midfield when we’re on a breakaway.

We have lost seven out of our last eight semi finals and Rangers have not lost at this stage of the competition since 1972. All signs say we’ll lose but we’ve backed the ‘Well every round so far and must continue to do so now.

Don’t know how, don’t why…2-1 ‘Well.