GRAEME MURTY believes his Rangers youngsters showed signs that they are on the road to the first team at Ibrox after a narrow 2-1 defeat to Falkirk in the Irn Bru Cup.

The Gers’ under-21 side bowed out of the competition to Paul Hartley’s side, who fielded a strong line-up in the cup tie at Stirling Albion’s Forthbank Stadium.

Rangers were down 2-0 at half-time but put in an impressive second half performance and had numerous chances to get back into the game, striker Zak Rudden bagging the goal with just a few minutes left on the clock. And Development head coach Murty was proud of the endeavour showed by his side and reckons the signs are there for them to go on to bigger things at the club.

“I’m disappointed for the players because I think they deserved a little bit more but I’m incredibly proud of the way they played, the way they attempted to play,” said Murty. “I think with a little bit of luck and a decision from the linesman we could be into the next round. But I can’t take anything away from the players, they shouldn’t be going home disappointed in the way they went about their business. Their approach and the way they played the game was extremely satisfying.

“The first half showed that we lacked that little bit of power and a little bit of experience in both penalty boxes. But between the penalty boxes I thought we dealt with the ball in the first half, we asked the guys to up the tempo of our play and they did that in the second half and that got us good success.

“The way these guys handled the ball in tight situations, against an experienced Championship side, is really satisfying because we were brave and we played the way we wanted to play. Even though we were down we still continued to believe in what we do and that gives me really good hope for the future.”

Glenn Middleton has featured in some early games for Steven Gerrard’s first team and it was the winger’s introduction at half-time that seemed to really get Rangers going.

The speedy wide player is well known to Murty from his time at Norwich City and he is adamant his development into Gerrard’s thoughts is a huge motivation for his young team-mates.

He said: “I’ve known Glenn for many, many years so I’m not really surprised at what he brings to the game. What his arrival at the club and ascension to the first team has done has lit a touch paper under the rest of the guys. They can see him travelling to away games in Europe and now they want bit of it.

“They’re desperate to get alongside him in the changing room which is all good for me because every single day they come in and they are striving to get better because they know that the manager is looking. They’re desperate to catch the manager’s eye and I think today, a few of them will do.

“I thought Kai Kennedy was great when he came on. We’ve got lots of guys in that age group that are looking to push on not just into the reserve group but into the first team group. For him to get on the pitch and get minutes is great for him but it’s not a surprise because he approached pre-season really well.

“Every single member of the group, and the under-18s I have to say, have been really impressive in their business, the way they come to work. They’re not treating it as young boys football any more, they are treating it as work and they’ve been very diligent. For the guys to represent not just themselves but the entire academy today in the manner that they did was very satisfying.”

This was Rangers’ first competitive game of a new season which will see last campaign’s successful Games Programme merged with participation in the SPFL’s new Reserve League and Murty is looking forward to the challenges that lie in wait.

Murty added: “I hope we get more tests like that and they get stretched in that manner. We’re going to send some guys out on loan as that’s the next step in their development. We could add more guys here today but we’ve decided that the next step is beyond this group which is great, they need a different experience.

”We’re trying to make sure we get the blend right and we stretch those guys that need stretching and pushing on because I think you see today we handle the ball nicely. We just need to get a little bit of maturation and experience into them and when they get that this group can really strive to get into the first team.”

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