DESPITE coming from a goal down through captain Lee Wallace, Rangers couldn’t find a winner and had to settle for a point against Ross County at Ibrox Stadium this afternoon.
Alex Schalk’s first-half goal handed the visitors a shock lead, but despite almost continuous pressure from Mark Warburton’s boys, they could only find the way to goal on one occasion through their skipper with 20 minutes of the game to play.
The game began in a lively fashion, and inside two minutes, Wes Foderingham was called into action to scoop clear a Martin Woods effort on goal after the County man was afforded too much space at the front post. His shot was from a tight angle, but Foderingham still did well to get a hand to it and clear the immediate danger.
Gers soon imposed themselves on matters, with plenty of flowing football on show. Indeed, James Tavernier brought out an excellent save from Scott Fox when the ball dropped for him at the back post, with the full-back hitting his effort on the half-volley and the goalkeeper throwing up both hands to push the ball over.
The assault on Fox’s goal continued, and returning striker Joe Garner saw a shot blocked by the Staggies’ defence, but Jim McIntyre’s men came to Ibrox with the clear intention of having a go, and Jim O’Brien blasted over the bar after Gers conceded possession deep in their own half before the visitors went one better and netted the opening goal in the 18th minute.
O’Brien was lively in the early minutes, and he burst down the right wing and cut a ball back for Alex Schalk to firstly steady himself and then clip the ball over Foderingham to send the small band of supporters from the Highlands into delirium.
County then could, and from their perspective probably should, have doubled their advantage as O’Brien and Schalk combined again after a slip in the Gers defence.
Under pressure, Foderingham played a ball wide to Clint Hill to clear, but he stumbled allowing O’Brien to nip in and feed Schalk who, with an empty net to fire into, somehow missed the target altogether.
Rangers all of a sudden were really up against it, but they ought to have been level in the 37th minute as Joe Garner passed up two opportunities. Firstly, a superb run from deep by Kenny Miller saw him play a neat ball through the middle for Garner only for Fox to come out and smother any chance he had of scoring, and then an excellent break down the right from James Tavernier led to him delivering a sweet cross right across the face of goal, and sliding in at the back post was Garner who couldn’t quite connect with the ball.
Four minutes before the break, that man Schalk again had a golden opportunity for County as he found space through the middle of the home defence, but Foderingham again was equal to his shot.
Into the second half, and Philippe Senderos had the first chance for Gers to draw his side level when he slid in to meet a James Tavernier corner at the back-post, but his effort went over the bar and into the Copland Road end of the ground.
Then, a sweeping move on the left ended with Garner chipping a ball to the back post, Miller heading across goal and for Jon Toral who couldn’t quite connect with the ball. Seconds later, Lee Wallace popped up wide on that same side and delivered a superb cross for Garner who headed goalwards only for Fox to save his initial effort and then prevent Toral netting the rebound.
Garner again had an opportunity as the hour mark approached as a long Wes Foderingham ball left Kenny van der Weg caught underneath it, allowing the striker to go one-on-one with Fox, but from the angle, the goalkeeper held his shot.
The chances were beginning to mount up for Warburton’s side, as Senderos again sent a Tavernier corner over the bar and then Clint Hill couldn’t get quite enough on a deep Tavernier free-kick, before with 20 minutes left, the pressure finally told on County.
Captain Lee Wallace played a neat one-two with Toral on the edge of the area, sending the skipper clear into space in the left of the penalty area, and his first-time shot found the back of the net much to the relief of the vast majority of the near-capacity crowd inside Ibrox.
With parity restored however, Gers were always going to go looking for a winning goal, and they had three opportunities from free-kicks around the box, with two taken by Tavernier and the other by Martyn Waghorn but none were to trouble Fox.
Jason Holt then found space to swing in a ball for Harry Forrester to head over, and from a similar position, Tavernier cut the ball back to the front post where County captain Andrew Davies directed the ball goalwards – possibly with his arm – but Fox again bailed his side out.
The Light Blues continued to press in search of a winner, but it proved to be in vain and coupled with a win for Aberdeen, Gers drop to third in the table.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Tavernier, Hill, Senderos, Wallace; Holt, Toral, Hyndman; Miller, Garner (Waghorn 62), McKay (Forrester, 62).
SUBS: Alnwick, Wilson, Dodoo, Halliday, Hodson.
ROSS COUNTY: Fox, Fraser, Naismith, O’Brien (Gardyne, 62), Woods, Boyce, Chow, Davies, Schalk (Curran, 72), Lalkovic (Dow, 62) Van der Weg.
SUBS: McCarey, Gobern, Tumilty, Dykes.