All the signs pointed to a close contest. We were top of the table with no goals conceded, while they had just returned from a midweek European defeat and had to field an inexperienced defence. Our only change from the previous week’s win in Paisley was to see Lasley restored to midfield and Forbes resume his place on the bench. Yet few Motherwell supporters expected a win. Years of cruel experience outweighed any logical analysis and we just knew that a defeat was on the cards.
Lasley had a half chance in the second half
The pattern of the game was set early on. We camped in their half for long periods playing lots of neat passes but rarely causing McGregor any inconvenience and they settled for attacks on the break. The first came in ten minutes when Lafferty was presented with a great chance only to be foiled by a great stop from Randolph.
Motherwell kept to the game plan as the visitors retreated to defend the last third of the park. Their charges upfield produced a few set pieces and it became obvious that Hutchison was having a problem coping with Jelevic in the air. It was not unexpected that their opener came from a Davis corner at the Cooper end. Jelevic powered a header goalward and it flew into the net touching Naismith on the way.
The game slowed down after that setback in the twentieth minute and we kept probing for a way through their double defensive line. The ball was shuffled from one wing to another with only occasional direct movement. It looked like an equaliser had arrived in 37 minutes when a well practiced corner ended with Murphy sending the ball home but an unintentional hand ball was spotted by the referee.
As the break loomed it seemed that we would be able to plan to overcome a one goal deficit but we were undone by a breakaway. It ended with Lafferty on the East stand side of the box and his perfect strike found the net off of the far post. It was the last action of the half and a cruel blow.
Rangers were content to smother the second period. Again we had plenty of possession but no direct shot on goal. A cross from Randolph glanced off the bar and at the other end a charge up the park allowed Davis to fire from distance and hit the woodwork.
As the game moved to the last quarter there seemed no way that we would score. Higdon (to be kind) had a disappointing game and he became more of a target man as our men lost their way and started to throw long balls in his direction but little came off his occasional success. Any lingering hope of a miracle was squashed when Wylde set off on a chase from his own half to slot the ball beyond Randolph.
Our record against Rangers last season was horrific – there seems little evidence that it will improve this time. We can be grateful that with Clyde awaiting in midweek we should get back to winning ways and be able to visit Dunfermline next Saturday with some confidence restored.