Motherwell suffered another heavy defeat at the hands of Rangers as the Ibrox side cruised to a 5-0 win at a sun-soaked Fir Park.
Walter Smith’s men have taken maximum points of the Steelmen this side and have scored nineteen goals in the process – almost 40% of Motherwell’s entire goals conceded for the whole SPL season.
Yet, in many ways, it was the old clichéd game of two halves with Motherwell very much in things and creating chances during the first forty-five, but crumbling in the second allowing the visitors to run away with the game.
Stuart McCall made three changes to the side that drew 3-3 with Hearts seven days ago. Shaun Hutchinson, Steven Saunders and Tom Hateley dropped out and were replaced by Steven Hammell, Maurice Ross and Steve Jennings.
Rangers remained unchanged from the Old Firm statement and came out the traps on the front foot after early chances for Maurice Edu and Kyle Lafferty both came and went.
Motherwell were looking threatening too, particularly on the counter attack, and were perhaps denied what could’ve been a penalty when Majid Bougherra caught Keith Lasley on the edge of the area. Television pictures were inconclusive as to whether or not the foul was on the line or not. In the end, referee Mike Tumilty choose to award a free-kick which was blazed high over the bar.
If Stuart McCall’s men felt hard done to with that decision, Kyle Lafferty’s opener after 18 minutes was bathed in controversy. John Sutton, trying to protect the ball in the corner, appeared to be pushed by Davie Weir but nothing was given either by the referee or his assistant Willie Conquer, who was standing just yards away.
Rangers immediately broke up the park and, after getting clear of Gavin Gunning, the Northern Ireland international rounded Darren Randolph before slotting home despite the best efforts of Stevie Hammell on the line.
The Fir Parkers have shown terrific resilience under Stuart McCall in his short period at the club and his side immediately looked to hit back. McCall’s first signing, Steve Jones, led the charge and almost brought his side level only to be denied by a wonderful stop by Scotland stopper Allan McGregor. The winger jinked inside and unleashed a shot that deflected crudely off Bougherra and looked to be heading in under the crossbar. McGregor was equal to it though and got a strong hand to turn it away for corner.
Shortly after, Jamie Murphy sent a terrific pass through the middle allowing Francis Jeffers to race clear of the Rangers backline. However, in a rare moment of indecision, the former Everton and Arsenal striker got caught between shooting and teeing up strike partner John Sutton. In the end, McGregor was close enough to get the block and the chance was gone.
On the stroke of the interval, Lafferty, already on a yellow card for a poor challenge on Gunning early in the match, was perhaps lucky not to receive a second caution after playing on and firing the ball into the net after the match had been stopped by the official.
1-0 at the interval, the Steelmen perhaps a little unfortunate to be behind, but the second forty-five was certainly one to forget as Rangers scored another four and dominated the majority of the half.
Steve Davis effectively ended the contest just six minutes in when he pounced on another break to make it 2-0. Steven Naismith got on the end of a Greg Wylde ball but his low shot was beaten away at his near post by Randolph. It couldn’t have fallen any kinder for the former Fulham man and he needed little invitation to tuck away from about fifteen yards out.
Rangers went up another couple of gears and chances came and went for Davis and Nikica Jelavić but it remained 2-0 as the ‘Well goal led a bit of a charmed life.
However, Rangers did make it three and, once again, referee Mike Tumilty caused anger amongst the home crowd. Francis Jeffers looked to have been body-checked on the edge of the visitor’s box, but the referee, who admittedly was right up with play, waved away protests and allowed the game to continue. Rangers wasted little time getting the ball up the park and Saša Papac’s deep cross towards the back post was gobbled up by Jelavić, who rose above Stephen Craigan to head home past a helpless Randolph.
Twelve minutes later Steven Naismith made it four. Playing a neat one-two with Wylde on the edge of the area, the Scotland striker blasted a shot past Randolph before completing the scoring with virtually the last kick of the ball, a dipping half-volley again leaving the Republic of Ireland International stopper with little chance.
It rounded off what was a miserable afternoon for Motherwell who certainly won’t mind seeing the back of the Ibrox side this term. Focus now turns to Dundee United next Saturday as the race to secure fifth place intensifies and preparations for the Scottish Cup Final continue.
[tab:As it happened]
Graham Barnstaple at Fir Park
Full Time: The whistle has now gone thankfully, that’s 19 goals Rangers have put past us in the League this season. 4,4,6 and now 5!
91mins – GOAL – Too long right enough – 5-0 Naismith scores a spectacular shot from a right angle with the outside of his foot
90mins – Two minutes stoppage time to go – too long in my opinion!!
84mins – Wylde off and Kerkar on for his debut. The midfielder was on trial for a few weeks during last summer.
85mins – Match sponsors have given the Motherwell Man of the Match to Jamie Murphy – fair enough I think.
77mins – Hateley on for Lasley, Rangers should’ve made it five as Naismith fires wide from close range.
76mins – GOAL – 0-4, Naismith given too much time and space at the edge of the box to pick his spot past Randolph leaving the keeper helpless.
73mins – Rangers sub Diouf on for Lafferty.
68mins – Jeffers replaced by Bob McHugh, frustration getting better of the former Everton man.
64mins – GOAL – 3-0 Rangers, Jelavic back post header from a Papac cross, Jeffers shown yellow for protests for another foul not given in build up.
62mins – Not much to report positively from a Well perspective as its all Rangers at the moment!
60mins – Jelavic hits the bar, Jones gets a yellow and Jelavic nets but is given offside – what a minute that was!!
58mins – Davis twists and turns at edge of box to get a shot away which is saved comfortably by Randolph low to his right
55mins – Hutchinson on for Hammell, Gunning moves to left back
50mins – GOAL – 2-0 Rangers, a cross field ball from the left picks out Naismith whose shot is blocked Randolph and falls kindly for Davis to roll in
45mins – Second half underway, as we kick off, can we mount a comeback two weeks in a row?
Interval: Humphrey not on the bench after all, he pulled out in the pre match warm up and has been replaced by Jamie Pollock.
Half time: 1-0 Rangers, not much in it at this stage.
44mins – Sutton not impressed with Mr Tumilty and is now getting a talking to from ref for taking his protest too far.
38mins – Murphy cross field ball picks out Jeffers whose lay off is intercepted by McGregor denying a Sutton tap in.
37mins – Rangers are getting 9 behind the ball quickly making them hard to break down, but then try to hit on the break. Sums up the goal really
35mins – Well fans not happy with the performance of ref Tumilty so far….
20mins – Steve Jones’s deflected effort almost levels things but McGregor makes a brilliant save.
18mins – Stuart McCall isn’t happy and is having a go at 4th Official Steve Conroy. ‘Well can feel hard done to there.
18mins – GOAL 0-1, Sutton clearly fouled by Weir in corner but play goes on and Rangers score with Lafferty scoring after rounding Randolph.
15mins – Late Lafferty challenge on Gunning sees the Rangers man pick up a yellow card.
14mins – Direct free from Jamie Murphy blasted into the wall from 19 yards out, but was foul just in the box?
5mins – Lafferty barges Ross off the ball but shoots at Randolph from acute angle
1min – We’re off. Rangers kick off and we are shooting towards the South Stand end
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“Celtic supporters will look at the score and rightly think ‘what the hell is going on? .But anyone who is at the game today, you’ll see Rangers just got the better of us and just got stronger.”
“I think some of the Rangers goals were outstanding. If their best players are at the top of of their game, they’re hard to live with.
“In the first half, we more than matched them and we had better chances, but what was disappointing was the second-half performance.
“There were a couple of key decisions that went against us, but it’s really disappointing because the lads have been great since I’ve been here.
“But I’m gutted – everyone in that dressing-room is playing for a Cup final place, for other clubs who are watching them, or a new contract here – they’ve all got things to play for.”
Rangers manager Walter Smith:
“The second half was a terrific performance from us. We needed it, because in the first half we maybe allowed the conditions to dictate a bit too much to us.
“We played a lot of balls back to front, never really got any rhythm. We managed to get a goal up. In the second half, I thought we were excellent.
“Maurice Edu, whose been taking a bit of criticism recently, was excellent. I thought he played extremely well. We’re just delighted that we managed to win the game.
“There were some terrific goals in the game, so we’re delighted by that aspect of it. We missed one or two chances as well from good moves.”