RANGERS tonight failed to win their third Championship match in succession, going down 1-0 to Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
Despite a bright start, Mark Warburton’s fell away as the match wore on with David Hopkin’s Livi being largely comfortable as they held on to a lead given to them by former Ger Craig Halkett on the stroke of half time, with the Championship Champions failing to score for the first time in the league this season.
The Light Blues came in for criticism for a lack of penetration in Saturday’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Alloa at Ibrox, and the opening minutes saw Andy Halliday attempt to silence the detractors as he fired a rasping volley from 20-yards just wide of the left-hand post.
James Tavernier then whipped a quite wonderful ball into the middle from the right-hand byline, finding Billy King lurking on the six-yard line, but his effort on goal was quickly charged down by the advancing Osman Kakay.
Michael O’Halloran was next to threaten after he got in behind the Livi defence, but he procrastinated for too long after entering the box and elected to try and find one of his advancing teammates rather than go for goal himself, and that delay allowed former Rangers youth Craig Halkett the chance to slide in and clear the ball for a corner.
Minutes later, O’Halloran was in again after being found by a sublime, defence-splitting Dominic Ball through ball, but this time O’Halloran fired wide of Marc McCallum’s right-hand post.
Rangers, as ever, were utterly dominant on the ball, and Tavernier then came close to a 16th goal of an incredible season, although he was to be the latest player in blue to be denied by a last-ditch block having been fed by Miller.
But as has been the case so often for Rangers of late, they soon played themselves into grave danger.
Gedion Zelalem was caught in possession deep in midfield allowing Sam Stanton to pick his pocket, and he threaded a ball between the two ‘Gers central defenders for Danny Mullen to run onto, but somehow with only Wes Foderingham to beat, he skewed a shot wide of the post.
As if that wasn’t enough of a warning, Rangers were caught napping again soon after with Stanton this time advancing beyond the visiting defence, although he again found only the outside of Foderingham’s post.
Right on half time though, the home side did find their breakthrough with again the Rangers defending leaving a lot to be desired.
Failing to defend a Matthew Knox free-kick into the area, Craig Halkett rose highest to nod the ball beyond the reach of Foderingham to hand his side what they would probably feel was a deserved lead.
With Mark Warburton’s angry words still ringing in their ears, Rangers opened the second half much brighter, and they should have scored almost straight from kick-off.
Michael O’Halloran made a superb, slaloming run down the right and then into the area, and his cross was inch-perfect for Billy King who looked set to tap in, but he couldn’t sort his feet and the ball ended up running loose to Andy Halliday on the edge of the area, with his shot just narrowly missing the junction of post and bar.
But further chances failed to materialise, and the hour mark saw King and Dean Shiels replaced by Barrie McKay and Jason Holt as Warburton attempted to reinvigorate his toiling side, although the match continued to be played out in a highly disappointing and most un-Rangers like manner.
As they tried to find a way back into the game, gaps began to appear again in the ‘Gers defence, and twice sub Liam Buchanan had the chance to seal the points for the home side – firstly nodding over an excellent Josh Mullen cross from only five-yards out before being denied by Foderingham having got in one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Tavernier, Ball, Wilson, Wallace; Halliday, Zelalem, (Law, 72) Shiels (Holt, 60); Miller, O’Halloran, King (McKay, 60).
SUBS NOT USED: Robby McCrorie, Kiernan, Clark, Burt.
LIVINGSTON: McCallum, Halkett, Kakay, Neill, Longridge, John Mullen, Danny Mullen (Currie, 70), Knox (Sheerin, 75), Stanton, White (Buchanan, 65), Pittman.
SUBS NOT USED: Jamieson, Fotheringham, Telfer.