MARK WARBURTON will use Barrie McKay’s stunning goal from this evening’s win over Annan Athletic as an example of how to break down a stubborn defence.
The Galabankies sat with almost every man behind the ball and made it difficult for Warburton’s side to play through, with McKay’s 25-yard dipping thunderbolt eventually breaking their resistance on the half-hour mark.
Warburton was pleased overall with his side’s work on the night as they made it two wins from two in their Betfred Cup group.
Speaking after the game to RangersTV.tv, the manager explained: “It was a great strike, and we have to look at that. If teams are going to sit in deep with 10 men behind the ball, then a strike may do that. The players have to believe in and trust their technique, and we have players with tremendous technique – so test the keeper, follow up on any rebound, and if we do that we will get the goals.
“Overall though there was some great movement and their keeper had some good saves in the second half. There were a number of pleasing elements, but we can improve on so many areas, which we will do, but it was a good night’s work. We knew first of all we had to win the game. We knew Annan would come here and offer up a stern challenge for us.
“We dominated possession and created lots of chances, but it’s hard to break down 10 men – any team will tell you that. But I thought we were very good in passages, but we had to be more clinical in certain areas. But I thought we looked solid and it was a pleasing performance.
“It’s good to get the new boys in too, and some are behind the curve in terms of training time, but looking at them – Niko [Kranjcar] was very, very good, Clint Hill was solid, Matt Gilks had to concentrate for 90 minutes, Lee Hodson came in and did very, very well and all over the park there were some very pleasing performances.
“We got Joey [Barton] on the pitch too, but for Friday we will change the team again, and the same for Monday so by the time we come to the Burnley game all of the team have had the appropriate loading.”
Following Saturday’s 2-0 win away to Motherwell, Warburton pointed to his defence as one area needing some improvement.
Tonight, he called for his side to be more ruthless in the final third after seeing them have spells where they failed to create any real opportunities.
The manager continued: “Defending doesn’t start with the defenders – and often if blame is allocated it is allocated to a defender. But we defend from the front and attack from the back, so I think you have to look all over the park, and analyse the games in detail. We need to look and see where we can improve – concentration, decisions we make and when to play forward and penetrate.
“There was a time in the first half where we had a lot of the ball, moved it side to side really well, but then didn’t really hurt them or open them up. So we’ll look at that, but for our second competitive game the boys are in good shape and I’m delighted so far.”
Kranjcar was indeed very impressive on his Ibrox bow, and he left the hallowed turf to be replaced by Joey Barton on the hour mark to a rapturous reception for his supreme contribution.
He still has a way to go in terms of sharpness, but Warburton said of him: “You don’t get 80-odd caps for Croatia without being a very talented player. He’s working really hard – fitness-wise we are seeing the results already, so all credit to his attitude and to that of the team. He wants to be as fit as he possibly can be, and there is no doubt about his talent his technique.”
Another positive from the game was the superb attendance inside Ibrox, with 31,628 taking advantage of some incredibly warm conditions to get out and see their team at home for the first time this season.
The turnout was greatly appreciated by Warburton who explained: “I said every week last season, and I’ll say it again every week this season – we will never take that support for granted.
“To get 30,000-plus is incredible. The players know about the responsibility they have, but it is important not to underplay the importance of it. The fans come in, pay good money, and we have to deliver the product and the performance.
“I hope tonight they went home happy.”