GOALS from from Daniel Candeias and Jason Cummings gave Rangers a valuable and deserved win at Ross County’s Global Energy Stadium this afternoon.
For long spells Graeme Murty’s men were in control of this Premiership fixture and created numerous chances, but it was Portuguese star Candeias and super-sub Cummings who took theirs with two superb finishes in the 21st and 82nd minutes respectively .
Rangers could certainly have scored more goals in a first half they dominated, and while County had moments of pressure in the second – and scored at the death when David Ngog made no mistake from the penalty spot – there is no doubt the visitors were worthy winners with Cummings’ goal the icing on the cake for the ecstatic travelling bears.
Murty picked the same team that started against Aberdeen in midweek for today’s fixture, with new signing Greg Docherty making his debut as a second-half substitute.
The manager was delighted with his side’s performance on Wednesday night at Ibrox and the players involved were given the opportunity to build on that confidence-boosting 2-0 victory in Dingwall this afternoon, which they grabbed with both hands.
Wes Foderingham was outstanding against the Dons and the club’s number one made his 26th appearance of the season against Owen Coyle’s Staggies.
The Rangers back four at kick-off again featured James Tavernier, Russell Martin, David Bates and Declan John at kick-off, with captain Jason Holt and Sean Goss taking up the holding midfield roles in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Candeias, Josh Windass and Jamie Murphy provided support to top scorer Alfredo Morelos with the Light Blues aware they needed three points to return to second place in the Premiership table following Aberdeen’s 3-1 win over Kilmarnock at Pittodrie yesterday.
They certainly started positively, with Candeias stinging Aaron McCarey’s hands with a powerful shot from 20 yards with just a minute on the clock.
County were struggling to get out of their own half in the early stages and they suffered an early blow when midfielder Chris Routis picked up an injury and was replaced by Tim Chow.
The Rangers fans were creating a great atmosphere from behind Foderingham’s goal and at the other end of the pitch the players were piling on the pressure.
On 15 minutes a curling shot from Jason Holt appeared to be netbound but the ball was headed over the bar by a Staggies defender.
From Jamie Murphy’s corner David Bates then flicked a volley which hit the post before being cleared.
County’s defence was creaking but they were left helpless and stranded as Candeias put Rangers in front.
The Portuguese winger had time and so much space when he picked the ball up midway inside the home side’s half and his powerful shot from distance flew past McCarey who flapped at the ball when he should really have made the save.
The visitors were a constant threat with their pace and power in the last third, and next up it was Morelos’ turn to get into a shooting position.
The Colombian cut inside from the right wing and poked the ball past a defender but his low shot from 18 yards was a foot wide of the target.
Murty’s January signings also impressed in the opening forty-five, with Martin commanding and composed at the back, Murphy quick and energetic on the left wing, and the on this evidence it’s easy to see why Sean Goss was compared to Michael Carrick when he moved to Ibrox.
Not only does the 22-year-old look like the Manchester United captain on the pitch, he sprays passes about in a similar way and possesses a ferocious shot with his left boot, which McCarey found out after the half-hour mark.
With five minutes of the half remaining the goalkeeper had to be alert again as he dived to his right to make an excellent stop from a Jamie Murphy header after good wing play from full-back James Tavernier.
County were lucky to go in at the break just a goal down but they were still very much in the game as they emerged from the tunnel for the start of the second half.
Rangers, however, continued where they left off in the first as they went in search of a vital second goal.
Four minutes in a clever ball from Candeias over the Staggies’ defence sent Windass clear down the left channel and into the 18-yard box.
He cut back inside his marker but was unable to curl his effort into the far corner, with McCarey making another crucial save.
With his side in need of a spark Coyle introduced Ngog on 54 minutes, with the former Liverpool striker taking the place of County’s top scorer this season Craig Curran.
That also gave the home support a lift and Rangers had to be careful not to lose their concentration and allow the Dingwall side a way back into this contest.
The away fans gave 21-year-old debutant Docherty a rapturous welcome when he replaced Goss with 16 minutes remaining and it was not long before Cummings was also sent on for Morelos.
The on-loan striker’s had the impact his manager would have hoped for as he cut in from the right on 82 minutes and his low shot found the bottom of the net.
The stunning goal sparked wild scenes of celebrations as Cummings enjoyed his first Rangers goal, but the drama was not over there.
In the 90th minute referee Steven McLean pointed to the spot after Martin appeared to handle the ball in the box, and up stepped Ngog to send Foderingham the wrong way with a well-taken penalty.
Four minutes of injury time were played but Rangers held out to record an important league victory at a tricky away venue.
ROSS COUNTY (4-5-1): McCarey; Naismith, Souttar, Fraser, Van Der Weg; Gardyne, O’Brien, Routis (Chow 8), Draper, Keillor-Dunn (Schalk 77); Curran (Ngog 54)
SUBS NOT USED: Fox, Effiong, McKay, Dingwall
GOALS: Ngog 90pen
BOOKINGS: Naismith, Chow
RANGERS (4-2-3-1): Foderingham; Tavernier, Bates, Martin, John; Goss (Docherty 74), Holt; Candeias (Halliday 83), Windass, Murphy; Morelos (Cummings 77)
SUBS NOT USED: Alnwick, Cardoso, Herrera, Kranjcar
GOALS: Candeias 21, Cummings 82
REF: Steven McLean
ATT: 6,541 (2,271 Rangers)