Rangers racked up another well-earned three points on Sunday with a resilient performance away at one of the most testing and hostile grounds in the SPL. Tynecastle provided Ally McCoist’s troops with the venue for one of their stiffest assessments of the season. A mix of ruthless finishing, incisive midfield work and a very solid and durable defensive performance provided the backbone for one of Rangers’ most impressive team performances of their campaign so far.
What was perhaps the most notable aspect of the game was the way in which the back line defended Allan McGregor’s goal. Carlos Bocanegra and Dorin Goian, mere strangers before August, look as though they have had years of experience playing alongside each other at the heart of the Ibrox defence. With the departure of Madjid Bougherra to the Middle East, and the fitness of club captain Davie Weir coming under scrutiny, it was one of McCoist’s priorities to maintain the defensive continuity, that has enabled the blue half of Glasgow to be so successful since the return of Walter Smith in 2007.
At times yesterday you felt that Rangers might keel over and submit to the attacking pressure from Hearts, but the calmness and at times luck of the back four and Allan McGregor ensured that they would maintain their 100% record away from home this season. Throughout the dressing room and in the stands there seems to be a real belief in the hard working, compact and well drilled defence that has been instilled over the years and sustained throughout the current squad. Despite a high turnover in terms of personnel over the summer, the philosophy of previous campaigns has been continued and embraced by the new arrivals. A fact that has not gone unnoticed by attacking dynamo Steven Naismith, who pinpoints the ingredients behind his team’s success,
“There has probably been the biggest transformation in the changing room for the last few years. It could have been a worry for everybody at the club, with the boys coming in to know what it’s about and be up to the job…But every single player who has signed has been putting in great performances in training and it has shown in the games as well…Without a doubt, that’s the biggest thing – the mentality of having to go into every game and win it. If you don’t, you’re bitterly disappointed…Hearts turned it into a battle but we knew if we had good defending that we would create chances and it was about being clinical. We had two good chances and two goals.”
Consistency and almost unbreakable team spirit has been a key driving force at Rangers. The combination of hard work, and a willingness to compete for each other and the fans has fused together efficiently with an understanding of the requirement to win every match. Rangers have reaped the rewards of this mindset and look powerful in the SPL, going 22 games without defeat, scoring 51 and conceding just 6 in the process. As Ally McCoist’s battle hardened squad look to keep the distance between themselves and the chasing pack, they give the air of determined and sturdy Champions. It is of course still early days in the title race, but the way in which the Ibrox side have conducted themselves mentally will go a long way to ensuring that Celtic will have a hard, hard task if they are to prevent Rangers picking up their 55th and fourth consecutive Scottish Premier League title.