GRAEME MURTY hailed the resilience of his Rangers Reserves side as they defeated Queen’s Park last night with a last-gasp penalty to earn a place in the Glasgow Cup final.
The 90 minutes were up at the Hummel Training Centre, with referee Euan Birch coming to the end of his added-on time in the semi-final, when Nathan Young-Coombes was brought down inside the penalty box.
It was an unexpected foul by the Queen’s Park defender but whistler Birch did not hesitate in pointing to the spot and that gave Rangers winger Glenn Middleton the opportunity to win the game with one of the last touches of the encounter. The attacker took his chance as he sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to net from 12 yards.
It was a frustrating evening for Rangers up to that point as after seeing the vast majority of the ball and the lion’s share of the chances on goal, they just could not find a way past the resilient Queen’s Park defence.
But it was the young Gers’ own resilience to get the very late winner that pleased Murty on a cold and damp evening in Milngavie. He said: “We’re relieved to actually get the result but pleased with certain aspects of what we did, albeit we looked rusty. We looked like a team whose component parts play for different teams on a weekly basis. But the effort was there, some of the play was there, we just couldn’t get the finishing part of it.
“And I said to the guys these are the type of games you can lose if you have a little bit of misfortune, or you switch off mentally. I thought they kept on going to the end very very well, but we know we have more to come from what we showed today.
“The guys could have got frustrated with themselves, they could have got frustrated with each other, the referee or their opponents. But they carried on. A part of what we are trying to teach the young players here is that perseverance, that resilience in the face of adversity and success and we thought they actually managed their emotions quite well and they continued to go.
“They got a reward at the end. I’m sure Queen’s Park will feel hard done by, because I thought they worked extremely hard, but the guys have to keep going, they have to keep pushing when things seem like they’re not going to work for you. You have to have that belief and that resilience to continue.
“At half-time we said we wanted an increase in tempo across the back, an increase in penetration when we broke the first line and more people to get into the box in crossing situations. I think that led to more opportunities, more scrambles in their box. I thought we got some really good opportunities and our final pass was lacking slightly.
“I felt if we had got a goal earlier we would’ve settled a little bit, but it didn’t happen and we just have to show that toughness. Part of that toughness is accepting what the game gives you. If it doesn’t give you a goal, you have to accept that and find a way to go manipulate the result in your favour and you do that by working hard, you do that by believing in the quality of your players and believing in what you are trying to do – and I think the players managed to do that.
“I said to the guys in the build-up this club is expected to get to finals, this club is expected to compete for trophies, but it’s up to you to go and get yourself into that position and they managed to do that. We’re through there and we’ve managed to book ourselves a place in the final which we’ll look forward to. The players know though there’s a lot of hard work and fine-tuning to go before we’re getting to the standard that we want to uphold.”
At first-team level Rangers often find themselves in situations where the opponent is defending in numbers and make it hard to play through their lines of defence. Last night’s cup clash was very similar and Murty says playing against tactics such as those deployed by Queen’s Park is a big part of how he and his coaching staff prepare the squad for a match environment.
“It’s one of the aspects that we teach,” Murty said. “We’ve been out on the pitch quite a lot looking tactically at a deep-lying defence or a low block if you want to call it that. It’s looking at our patience in possession, our quality in possession. I thought a couple of times they were both lacking [in this game] but then when we do manage to provoke an opponent from jumping out of his shape how do we then go and capitalise? And we did the first couple parts of it, we just failed in the final part.
“If the final part is crisp and clear like you see our first team level sometimes, then these guys would manage to put teams away with a little bit more composure and that again is a good lesson for them. That’s why people tend to be more expensive, if they have quality and composure and can bring what they are good at into the final third then they’re worth an awful lot of money and our job is to make players like that.”