Rangers 1-3 St Johnstone
Any hopes of 12 wins on the trot for Rangers disappeared after 30 minutes here at Ibrox as Premiership side St Johnstone used all their guile and experience to knock Mark Warburton’s team out of the League cup.
Simon Lappin fired an early warning from the edge of the box, which brought out a good save from Foderingham.
Rangers had all the early possession, but it was St Johnstone who looked the more dangerous on the break.
Michael O’Halloran was having a field day on the right flank as Lee Wallace, for possibly the first time this season, had to go back the way instead of constantly bombing forward.
The first goal for Saints was an absolute peach.
O’Halloran was determined to get to the byeline, his cross was deftly flicked by Steven McLean into the path of Murray Davidson to score from close range after 18 minutes.
Moments later, St Johnstone should have killed Rangers off, but McLean missed an absolute sitter from no more than three yards out with the goal at his mercy.
Yet again, Saints attack came down the right side. The inch perfect O’Halloran cross left McLean with a tap in, which he duly side-footed over the bar!
There was just a feeling the visitors might rue that miss, but Rangers couldn’t penetrate the Saints back line.
Miller and Zelalem had shots, but nothing to really worry Mannus.
The second goal for Tommy Wright’s team knocked the stuffing out of Rangers. It was poor defending that allowed Simon Lappin time and space at the edge of the box to fire in a fizzing left foot shot from a simple corner by David Wotherspoon.
2-0 at the break allowed the Rangers manager the chance to try and re-group and get a response from his players.
But, 60 seconds into the second half, the game was over as a contest. A long ball from McLean over the Rangers back line allowed man of the match O’Halloran the chance to race away and finish in style.
Ibrox was in stunned silence and any suggestion this championship side could compete right now in the Premiership looked shot to pieces by the scoreline.
However, Rangers did mount a fightback with the ever impressive James Tavernier bursting into the box to fire a shot high into the net to make it 3-1 just beyond the hour.
Was the fightback on? The crowd did their best to try and lift the players, Oduwa hit the bar, Waghorn missed the target with a free header, but in the end it wasn’t to be.
Man of the match Michael O’Halloran was quick to point out the game plan worked a treat. “ We knew we could hurt them on the flanks and we scored three fantastic goals.”
Captain Dave Mackay thought it could have been even more convincing than the 3-1 scoreline.
“ Not many people thought we could come here and win, but apart from the opening 15 minutes, we got to grips with the game and got the win we deserved.”
” We could have scored five or six on the night.”
No excuses from Rangers boss Mark Warburton. “ Credit the opposition they got the rewards from their game plan.”
“ We needed a bit more quality in the final third, we just couldn’t break them down.”
” We will learn from this result. We’ve only been together less than three months, but I don’t think we are in bad shape.”
What did we learn from this match?
St Johnstone were too good for this developing Rangers side. The Ibrox chairman Dave King and manager Mark Warburton called it 100% correct. The Rangers team are easily five players short of having a squad capable of competing at the next level.
Not winning a title, just competing at the next level.
The hype is over, now the hard work continues for Rangers in their quest back to the Premiership.
As for St Johnstone, they got their tactics spot on and fully deserved their place in Monday’s draw for the next round.
Elsewhere in the League cup, Ross County thumped Falkirk 7-0 with a Liam Boyce first half hat-trick setting Jim McIntyre’s men on their way to a huge win.
Alex Samuel’s double and a Michel Tidser strike for Morton caused the shock of the night, knocking Motherwell out of the cup 3-2 after extra-time and increasing the pressure on manager Ian Baraclough.
Despite going a goal down at Tannadice, another under-fire manager Jackie McNamara watched his side fight back to win 3-1 against Dunfermline over 120 minutes.
Scottish cup holders Inverness Caledonian Thistle had no problems easing past Livingston in regulation time by 2-0.