MOTHERWELL must be sick of the sight of Kenny Miller as the striker proved to be the difference between the sides for the second time in seven days.
The veteran striker popped up 18 minutes from time to poke the ball over the line at Fir Park and help put Rangers back into second spot in the Premiership. Emerson Hyndman shone on his first start for the Light Blues and the 20-year-old topped it off with a well taken goal on 87 minutes to make sure of the three points for the Gers.
It was an eventful afternoon which saw Rangers down to 10 men after just four minutes when Michael O’Halloran was shown red for a rash high challenge. But the Steelmen too had to compete for most of the game missing a man when Scott McDonald got his marching orders for a tackle on goalscorer Miller on 26 minutes.
Rangers made it hard for themselves on a snowy afternoon in Lanarkshire and were immediately on the back foot after the early dismissal of O’Halloran. The attacker could have no complaints for being shown a red after he left his studs in on Carl McHugh’s thigh inside five minutes.
With the Light Blues down to 10 men they shifted to a 3-3-3 to try and play their way into the game but the Steelmen had started on top and continued with that pattern. Just after O’Halloran had left the field Craig Clay turned and shot on the edge of the area – his strike whistling past Wes Foderingham’s upright.
Then McDonald tore down the right for the home side to send a fizzing ball across the box. Chris Cadden was inches away from connecting as Rangers struggle to compose themselves. Moments later after a loose ball across goal from James Tavernier McDonald set himself up at the Gers near post, blazing an effort straight at Foderingham, who held well. A man down Rangers were finding it hard to make a breakthrough at the other end.
On 22 minutes Cadden accelerated down the right to dink a quick ball around the back of the Gers defence to try and pick out McDonald, who lurking a few yards out. As with Motherwell’s earlier chance it just needed a toe to fire them ahead. Thankfully for Rangers the ball whizzed across the face of goal to keep them in the game.
Four minutes later Motherwell saw themselves lose a man too. McDonald had been such a threat for the home side but he was saw red after the tackle on Miller. The Australian picked up the ball over on the right and looked to play forward but didn’t see the presence of Miller bearing down on him. The Well man left a foot in on the Gers striker’s ankle as he tumbled to the ground under the challenge. It was now 10 v 10.
Hyndman went closest for the Light Blues in the opening half hour as he blazed a powerful shot at Craig Samson on 30 minutes. The keeper could only parry the effort from the right and Barrie McKay was lurking in front to try and pick up the scraps but it didn’t fall kindly for the winger.
Rangers invented some eye catching play with seven minutes to the break that nearly led to an opener. It was Hyndman who showed the vision to deploy a quick back heel to Miller just inside the box and it teed the striker up well. The 37-year-old lashed a decent strike goalwards and Samson was forced into the save.
The second-half sprang into action when Miller picked out Wallace to allow the full-back to motor away down the left channel. He was unopposed and powered into the box to lace one at goal. Stephen McManus had to clear off the line in what became a goalmouth melee.
On 56 minutes Louis Moult fired just inches over Foderingham’s bar. Clint Hill had conceded a free-kick over on the right and Hammel sent a lofty ball into the area. Moult won the aerial challenge to then turn and execute one on the spin – it was agonisingly close for the 24-year-old striker.
Five minutes later Andy Halliday found himself in possession after a short corner worked its way out to him on the edge of the area. The midfielder had time to weigh up his options and elected to shoot low at Samson but it was wide.
Rangers had controlled the second-half as the hour mark ticked by and McKay linked up with James Tavernier to then burst into the box in an attempt to collect the right-back’s ball from the flank. The 22-year-old was inches away from poking the ball home. Jon Toral then saw a header flash wide in a dominant spell for the Gers.
When Rangers need a man to win them a game you can count on Miller to pop up. As he did last weekend against the Steelmen Hyndman threaded in a perfect ball to slice the Motherwell defence in two. Wallace latched onto that and sent the ball whizzing across the face of goal, somehow the newly arrived Martyn Waghorn missed it but Miller was there queued up at the far post to tap the ball over the line. With 18 minutes left on the clock the Gers had managed to snatch that crucial goal.
Harry Forrester had barely been on the pitch when Samson was having to claw his low strike around the post. The midfielder won the ball in the middle of the park to kick start a move which saw Miller spray the ball out to Wallace on the left before he worked it back along the edge of the area via Miller again. Forrester was slotted in on the right of the box and needed no invitation to try and sneak the ball between goalkeeper and post.
Hyndman had impressed on his league appearance and got his rewards with the game nearly done. On 87 minutes Josh Windass gave him a short ball and the US international skipped into the box to score as he slotted the ball underneath Samson.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Kiernan, Hill, Wallace, Halliday, Toral (Waghorn 68’), Hyndman, McKay (Forrester 76’), Miller (Windass 80’), O’Halloran
Subs not used: Gilks, Senderos, Holt, Dodoo
Goals: Miller 72’, Hyndman 87’
Yellows: Kiernan 12’, Hill 79’
Reds: O’Halloran 4’
MOTHERWELL: Samson, Tait (Bowman 77’), Hammell, Heneghan, McManus, McHugh, Moult, Cadden (Frear 77’), Chalmers (McMillan 27’), Clay, McDonald
Subs not used: Griffiths, Ainsworth, Lasley, Jules
Reds: McDonald 26’