BILLY KIRKWOOD was delighted to see Rangers’ Development side show resilience and character as they recovered from losing a two-goal lead to see off Partick Thistle in the SFA Youth Cup.
Zak Rudden and Andy Dallas had the Gers two goals up before the visitors pegged them back to 2-2 to send the game into extra-time, but three goals from the Light Blues was enough to send them into the fourth round of the competition.
“I’m sure it was entertaining to watch but it was frustrating,” Kirkwood said. “Some of them were looking to everybody else to try and do something and not taking responsibility for themselves. There wasn’t much between the teams in the first half but we put a few things to them at half-time that they had to be more resilient, take more responsibility and especially at this club when things aren’t happening they need to stand up and be counted.
“They took that on board and had a comfortable 2-0 lead and let them in with a lazy leg out for the penalty and a set-piece. We’ll give our dues to Partick Thistle, they recovered well and we had to go and win the game again. In extra-time I thought our lads showed some decent stuff and we thoroughly deserved the victory.
“When you go two-nil up and then lose two goals, the resilience showed was great. It was good character. I said to them they’ll probably learn more about themselves in that game tonight after losing that lead and being under pressure a wee bit.
“It’s absolutely vital because they’re hoping they’ll run out one time and there will be 50,000. It’s great that we get the opportunity to play at Ibrox and when they get a wee bit of a crowd but they’ve got to test themselves and have that mental capacity to handle 50,000.”
It was a rare competitive fixture for the youngsters this season as the Games Programme has resulted in a series of friendly matches both at home and on the continent. The initiative has been testing the Development players against some of Europe’s best academies and tonight was a chance to see what they had learned so far as they took on Scottish opposition in a domestic cup tie, and naturally Kirkwood was happy to see them emerge victorious against a different style of opponent.
He said: “It’s great getting these games abroad testing them against different players, different styles but they’ve got to come back and do the bread and butter stuff so it’s great we’ve got the two styles. We’ve got the Scottish football tonight, it showed it was a difficult game. Credit to Partick Thistle they made it difficult for us by coming back to make it 2-2 so I think the resilience they showed will stand them in good stead