RANGERS suffered late disappointment at Fir Park today as a goal from Peter Hartley in time added on gave the Steelmen a share of the points in Motherwell.
The heavy rain in Motherwell played its part in the game as Motherwell were gifted an opener inside three minutes.
Kyle Lafferty then pegged his side back on 15 minutes as he scored his first goal since returning to Rangers in midweek. His strike took a deflection off Richard Tait on the way in, not that the Northern Irishman cared in his celebration.
Three minutes later Motherwell took the lead again through Carl McHugh from a header at the back post. Lafferty then grabbed his second goal of the game with a header from a James Tavernier cross, before Ovie Ejaria grabbed his first goal for Rangers to make it 3-2 at half time.
It looked like Rangers would hold on after a lengthy spell of pressure from the home side saw them pick up a series of corners. However, deep in injury time, Steelmen skipper Peter Hartley got on the end of the final set piece of the match to bundle home a 94th minute equaliser.
With only three minute gone Rangers conceded just their fourth goal of the season. With the turf wet under the Lanarkshire rain Connor Goldson lost his footing at the back as Chris Cadden put a ball over the top. The centre-back’s slip allowed Danny Johnson room for a one on one chance with Allan McGregor who also suffered on the wet surface as he came to face the Well striker. Johnson elected to cooly chip the back peddling keeper and send his side into the lead at Fir Park.
Lafferty nearly made his mark on his full Gers return to pull his side level a couple of minutes after Gerrard’s side went behind. The lofty striker rose highest at the far post to be picked out by a Tavernier cross and plant a header into the turf. Trevor Carson had to be sharp to smother to ball at the base of the upright.
On 15 minutes McGregor was so nearly beaten by Johnson again in similar circumstances to his opener. With Goldson in the centre of Gers back three he found himself trying to get round the forward to block him off but he lost his footing. The striker managed to move himself round to left and angel a shot at McGregor but he managed to tip it over the top.
A minute later Rangers were back level through the very familiar Lafferty as he bagged his 39th goal for the club. the Northern Irishman lashed the ball home from the edge of the area and a deflection off Richard Tait skewed the ball the wrong side of Carson. Lafferty was claiming it though as he slid on his knees towards the delirious away support.
Prior to this game Gerrard’s team had never found themselves behind in a game but on 18 minutes it was twice in 20 minutes. For Motherwell’s second Gael Bigirimana, who had a fleeting loan spell at Ibrox but never played, whipped in a deep free-kick and Carl McHugh buried a header into the top corner of McGregor’s goal. Rangers found themselves with a big test on their hands.
The Light Blues looked to respond quickly. Andy Halliday, returned to the starting XI after sitting out Thursday’s Europa League tie, tried his luck from distance on 22 minutes. The midfielder’s curled effort shaved the apex of the Well goal. Then Tavernier dragged his low shot from the right just wide.
With seven minutes to the break Rangers had their way back into the game and it came via the head of Lafferty. Motherwell switched off at the back, Tavernier whipped in a superb ball from the right and the Gers latest signing used his 6’4 advantage to nod home, leaving Carson no chance.
It was then a superb passage of play which moved the Gers into the lead. Breaking from the back after a ‘Well corner Ryan Jack moved the ball out to Borna Barisic and then the Croatian ate up the pitch. His touch inside to play Ejaria in was exceptional, he Liverpool loanee shaped to curl the ball around the Steelmen’s defence. Carson dived to save but somehow the ball came off his arm and spilled over the line giving the Gers three at the break.
The second-half had a lot to live up to but started in similar frenetic style to the first. Halliday was forced into a goalline clearance within minutes of the restart and then McGregor saved well from a Motherwell header.
Ejaria had grown into the game and produced some great work in a tight area just inside the Well box to lay-off to Tavernier, who was lurking on the outside. The full-back touched it to Jack to his left and the midfielder swung a good shot just wide.
Motherwell had looked dangerous from set pieces all afternoon and on the hour Bigirimana sent one directly at McGregor from out on the left. The Gers stopper did well to punch the danger clear and then Morelos, deployed defensively, mopped up the rest by charging down the follow up attack.
When Rangers got a free-kick wide on the right, with 15 minutes left to play, Tavernier’s delivery evaded both the Gers and Motherwell and found its way onto the left flank. Barisic cut a low ball in to the feet of Lafferty who had the goal gapping but skewed his chance badly wide in a big let off for the home side.
Hartley came close to leveling with eight minutes remaining when he had a free header in the six yard box, which he sent well over the top.
The captain did however have a defining influence on the game with the final action of the second half, bundling the ball home from yet another corner for the home side, denying Gerrard’s Rangers their first league victory on the road this season.
RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Flanagan, Barisic (Middleton 79’), Jack, Ejaria, Halliday (Arfield 68’), Lafferty, Morelos.
Subs not used: Foderingham, Wallace, Sadiq, Kent, Candeias.
Goals: Lafferty 16’ 38’ Ejaria 43’
Yellows: Barisic 55’ Halliday 67’
MOTHERWELL: Carson, Tait, McHugh, Aldred, Hartley, Cadden, Campbell (Frear 75’), Main, Rose (Bowman 84’), Bigirimana, Johnson (Sammon 75’)
Subs not used: Gillespie, Taylor-Sinclair, Rodriguez Gorrin, Turnbull.
Goals: Johnson 3’ McHugh 18’, Hartley ’90+4
Yellows: Campbell 38’ Aldred 64’