PRETTY much everything in 2016 has been close to perfect for Rangers so far, but, as Saturday’s stalemate with Kilmarnock proved, perfect results never last forever.
In terms of heart and desire, this current Rangers side are never found wanting, and that was certainly the case against the Ayrshire side, who found themselves under a constant barrage of attack the longer the game went.
Indeed, it should be taken as a compliment that Killie, a Premiership side, shut up shop and were delighted to earn a replay against Championship Gers, although there is little doubt the Light Blues could and should have finished the job at the weekend.
Twice the woodwork denied Warburton’s boys and countless other chances came and went, the best probably being when Barrie McKay pinged a typically beautiful ball into the path of Martyn Waghorn unmarked inside the area, but for once his usually Velcro-like touch deserted him, the ball ran away and the opportunity had gone.
Not even a late red card for Kallum Higginbotham for a high, studs-up tackle on James Tavernier could swing the game in Rangers direction as Lee McCulloch got his managerial career off to a more than decent start.
Under his stewardship, Killie were exceptionally well-organised, they were fired up, and while their ventures into the Rangers half were limited, any time they did cross the halfway line they always looked to carry a degree of threat.
McCulloch’s range of emotions on Saturday must have been impossible to chart. This was the former Ibrox captain’s first visit back to his former home since departing last summer, and despite some fears to the contrary, he was given an exceptionally warm welcome in recognition of the terrific service he gave Rangers in some of their darkest hours in recent seasons.
Both teams will now look ahead to the replay a week tomorrow with a degree of optimism.
On their own (albeit artificial) turf, Killie will hope to put behind them a wretched run at Rugby Park under potentially new management. McCulloch continues to rule himself out of the running but a number of other candidates have been identified with the view to making an appointment as soon as possible.
Rangers, who have been allocated in excess of 9000 tickets next week, have shown time and again their prowess on the road, scoring 42 goals in 15 away matches this season so far, an average of just under three goals a game.
Regardless of the venue, Rangers play the same way and a performance similar to the one delivered on Saturday with a little more composure in front of goal will give them a great chance of going through.
Even Killie’s plastic pitch cannot be looked at as being a leveller – the Gers have averaged four goals a game from the four games they have played on them so far this season, winning three and losing the other at Falkirk just prior to Christmas.
Rangers will find out their potential quarter-final opponents this evening, and that will add as a further incentive to progress in the competition given it will either be another Premiership club for the Light Blues to test themselves against or opposition whom they would fancy their chances of progressing to Hampden and the Scottish Cup semi-finals.