Kris Jack at Ibrox
Second half goals from Lee McCulloch and Dean Shiels were enough to knock Motherwell out of the Scottish Communities League Cup.
Despite going in to the interval at 0-0 and looking good for the second half, Rangers upped their game and Motherwell never really got going, lacking the killer touch in front of goal that could have made all the difference.
Stuart McCall named an unchanged side to that which drew 3-3 with Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday. In form striker Michael Higdon was looking to add to his seven goals in his last four games, supported by the tricky Henrik Ojamaa in attack and both Nicky Law and Chris Humphrey on the flanks.
Ally McCoist’s starting eleven was a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces, with starts for Neil Alexander, Dean Shiels, Fran Sandaza and Lee McCulloch. Ian Black missed out for the hosts through injury, as both teams looked to kick on to the next round of the Scottish Communities League Cup.
Rangers started the game at full speed, getting right in the visitors’ faces from kick off, but despite some balls bouncing about in the box, the ‘Well defence remained intact.
It took the Steelmen about five minutes to settle and began to carve out some opportunities, with Tom Hateley testing Neil Alexander from 25 after neat wing play from Henrik Ojamaa and Keith Lasley played him in.
Steven Hammell was on the receiving end of a late challenge from Lewis McLeod, and was then booked where McLeod wasn’t for a far less forceful challenge on Dean Shiels just five minutes later. From the free kick, Lee McCulloch blazed Shiels’ quick pass over the bar.
McCulloch then gave Darren Randolph his first touch of the game with a 25-yard smash that was straight enough for the Irish International to gather easily enough. Down the other end and Nicky Law had two chances in quick succession to put the Fir Parkers ahead, but came up just short on each occasion.
He weaved in from the left after a neat interchange with Steven Hammell, shot across Alexander and past the far post. Minutes later, he reacted quickest to a free kick on the half-way line to race clear of the defensive line. He got to the loose ball before the outrushing Alexander, only for the Rangers’ keeper to nick the ball off his toe before he could round him.
A clash of heads between Shaun Hutchinson and Fran Sandaza led to the former St Johnstone man leaving the field on the stretcher, while the first half became stop start as Hutchinson received treatment for a bloody head wound.
The signs were encouraging going in to the second half after a decent showing in the first period, but within four minutes of the restart, Rangers took the lead in somewhat inevitable fashion.
A short quick corner between Fraser Aird and Shiels was tossed in to the box, right on to the head of the towering Lee McCulloch, who crashed header beyond Randolph to send Ibrox in to raptures. The concession of similar goals against Aberdeen on Sunday had not been heeded, and McCall’s men found themselves behind at Ibrox yet again.
The home side had their tails up, Aird almost doubling the score after he jinked his way in to the box past Fraser Kerr.
It was only a brief wait for the home fans to see their side score a second, and again it was down to some poor defending from the visitors.
A ball from the left made its way across the box to the unmarked Agriyou and with six Claret and Amber shirts watching, he picked out the unmarked Dean Shiels who placed the ball beyond Randolph from sixteen-yards.
As the Motherwell players trudged back to the halfway line, they knew that pulling a two goal deficit back was going to need a monumental effort, which unfortunately never materialised.
The best opportunity to get back in to the game came from a Hateley free kick from the left corner of the box which had Alexander scrambling to push the ball away, but with no one following in, the chance was wasted.
With Shiels going off injured, Rangers reverted to one man up front, which bar a few runs from Aird and substitute Barry McKay; found them shooting from distance, with Kyle Hutton and Lewis McLeod trying speculative efforts.
Try as they might, Motherwell could not find a final touch in and around the box, as intricate play from Law, Ojamaa and substitutes Omar Daley and Jamie Murphy, could not create the chances required to get back in to the game.
The home side almost snatched a third at the death when McKay drove in to the box and had a shot which cannoned off Randolph’s shins, before McCulloch missed the target with the rebound.
The game ended 2-0 to Rangers, and once more the 900 strong travelling fans could not leave having seen their side come away with a victory.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Ibrox
FT: Rangers 2 – 0 Motherwell.
90mins – Free-kick from Motherwell but it’s straight into the arms of the keeper. ‘Well fans in fine voice – thanks to all who travelled…
88mins – Good save again by Randolph to keep it at 2-0. McCulloch flashes the ball wide of target.
87mins – It’s been a difficult second half for Motherwell. Tough watching. Enough of the ball in the final third but lack a cutting edge.
75mins – Attendance here tonight is 29,413.
75mins – Rangers sub. Crawford on for goal scorer Shiels.
72mins – Another change – Omar on for Chris Humphrey. PA announcer at Ibrox is having one…
70mins – Another shot form Ojamaa but his neat turn and hit is well saved again by Alexander. Motherwell need a goal quick here.
69mins – Ojamaa goes down in the box under a challenge. Hard to see from here but Calum Murray not interested.
66mins – Dean Shiels takes advantage of space in the Motherwell defence (Hutchy off again). Shot is saved by Randolph.
65mins – Another change for Motherwell. Francis-Angol on for Hammell. Assume that must be an injury to the full-back.
63mins – Murphy comes on for Hateley!
62mins – Ojamaa does his best to control a difficult volley inside the box but it’s fairly comfortable for Alexander to pluck out the air.
60mins – Free-kick by Hateley is very well saved by Alexander. Still 2-0 Rangers.
60mins – its all Rangers at the moment. ‘Well just need to get back to playing the football they did in the first. Lost their way a bit.
55mins – GOAL Rangers. Dean Shiels makes it 2-0 to the home side. Unmarked from just inside the box. Nightmare for ‘Well!
GOAL Rangers – Lee McCulloch with a close range header. Poor marking from Motherwell!
46mins – Early half chance for Higdon but his flicked header doesn’t trouble Alexander at all.
45mins – Teams are back onto the pitch and Motherwell will get this second-half underway. C’mon the Steelmen… Good luck lads!
HT: Rangers 0 – 0 Motherwell. Fairly even so far. Both teams had some half chances but nothing to really write home about,
45mins – Neat little passing move from Motherwell. Higdon’s shot from the edge of the box lacks pace and runs wide of the post.
44mins – Game has got a little scrappy. Match official is giving free-kick after free-kick which isn’t helping the game flow at all.
41mins – Motherwell have forced a couple of corners but nothing to really trouble the home defence.
34mins – Great chance for Law. Through one on one with Alexander but the goalkeeper wins the race and clears the ball.
29mins – Motherwell go right down the park and have a dig themselves but Law’ shot from distance flashes wide of the post.
28mins – Rangers have their first real shot on target. McCulloch from the edge of the area but it is comfortable for Randolph.
25mins – Ojamaa runs with the ball for what seemed like hours. Eventually crossed but it’s a little over-cooked and spins out for a goal kick
23mins – Rangers make that change. Kyle Hutton comes on to replace the groggy Sandaza. Hutchinson still off the park.
22mins – Hutchinson still off the park – both teams down to ten men at the moment.
21mins – Looks like Sandaza is going to have to come off. Real sore one there! Hopefully the big striker is ok. Hutton going to come on!
19mins – Hutchy has to go off for stitches. Nasty head cut. Leaves us short at the back for this corner…
19mins – Hutchinson and Sandaza both down after a nasty clash of heads. Hopefully both players ok. Doctors are on the pitch at both players,
17mins – Hooked ball into the middle bu Hutchinson heads towards Higdon. He can’t get enough on the ball and it drops easily for Alexander.
14mins – Hammell booked. His foul almost identical to a foul on him seven minutes earlier that went unpunished. Frustrating stuff.
10mins – Nice ball down the flank from Hateley has Ojamaa in. His first touch takes him a little wide though and his shot is easily blocked.
5mins – First shot on target in the game comes from Tom Hateley. 30-yarder is no trouble for Alexander in the home goal.
3mins – Free-kick for Motherwell 40 yards from goal – Rangers make a hash of the defending and it’s a corner to the Steelmen. Cleared though
1min – Rangers have started very much on the front foot. The home fans are rocking here. Boys need to calm down into the match.
1min – Rangers are going to get us underway here at Ibrox. Hopefully tonight we can end our 15-year run. Good luck lads!
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I was disappointed with the way we played and performed. I said before the game we would have to be at our best to win this game.
“We didn’t get anywhere near the heights we got on Sunday or have done all season. If you asked anybody who’s watched Rangers all season, they’ve never played anything like that but it was always going to be the case.
“I was certainly aware of what we would face – it was their biggest game in terms of an SPL club coming here.
“But I look at my own side and we lost too many battles.”
Rangers manager Ally McCoist:
“It was really satisfying. I thought the performance warranted the victory and the two goals were top-class. It’s a wee indicator to ourselves and the support that we can play against teams from the top of the league and higher up in the divisions but we can’t get carried away.
“It’s a very small step on what’s going to be a long road. I make no apologies for telling the supporters that – we’ve got miles and miles to go.
“But it shows you, in a one-off game, we can compete with anybody.”