RANGERS’ Under 20s suffer their second agonising stoppage time defeat in the space of two weeks.
Ian Durrant’s side were 1-0 up against visiting Falkirk, as they had been against St Johnstone, but were punished by two late goals.
After a frustrating game, in which Gers youngsters failed to take a hatful of chances, lofty centre-half David Brownlie leapt highest 15 minutes from time to deservedly give his side the lead.
But Falkirk struck back in the 82nd and then 91st minutes to leave the Rangers players devastated.
Jordan Gibson was returning from an ankle injury, after a large spell on the side-lines and he impressed. But the Midlands-born-boy should have done better with two gilt edged chances in the second-period. Another bright spark for Durrant was Mekhi Leacock McLeod, signed on deadline day and rapid when arriving as a 74th minute substitute.
It was Gibson who had the first chance of the match inside the first minute, Josh Jeffries spying him lurking on the left flank and delivering a pin point ball for him to run onto. The 17-year-old drifted inside and tested the keeper at his near post with a powerful low drive.
It was Falkirk who made the better opening, they could have been winning after five minutes had it not been for the hands of Maciej Gostomski. The polish keeper first denied Kevin O’Hara, who picked up a good ball over the top from former Livingston man Myles Hippolyte and bore down on the keeper who made himself big. Then the big keeper had to be quick to save from Kyle Johnson who bulleted a header at him after a Falkirk corner.
Durrant’s side reacted quickly through Ryan Hardie, who is desperate to add to his tally after a quiet time in front of goal. He picked up a brilliant ball over the top and outdid the Bairns defence to get into the six-yard box and see his shot from a tight angle deflected out of play.
Brownlie was causing problems in the visitor’s box long before his goal, on nine minutes he found space for a close range shot when the ball fell loose from a corner. The lively Gibson picked up the rebound and lashed it at the keeper, who could only palm it away.
It was a fractious opening period and David Smith, who has made 20 first-team appearances this season, was involved in dangerous Falkirk attacks inside 20 minutes. First he crossed for O’Hara but Gostomski was there to save again and then he created his own chance with a driven effort from out on the right, which skimmed the base of the post on its way out of play.
Hardie went close again when he nodded a header wide on 26 minutes and then three minutes later Jordan Thompson looked to do something special. The Northern Irishman made room for himself with a little drag back and then attempted to tuck the ball into the top corner – it was just inches wide of the upright.
But Falkirk weren’t lying down and Gostomski, on his debut in a Rangers jersey, kept the youngsters in it towards the end of the first-half. The 6’5 stopper halted the advances of Hippolyte as he got in one-on-one with him and then he turned the ball onto the crossbar when Tony Gallagher sent a fizzing cross come shot along the by-line.
The teams went in goalless at the break and Gibson looked determined to change that when the second-half began. He raced down the left to cut inside and force the keeper to turn his shot around the post. Dylan Dykes tried a similar effort six minutes later but tugged it just wide of the target.
But probably Gibson’s best chances of the game came in succession, in the 53rd and 54th minutes. First Ryan Sinnamon whizzed a ball along the by-line but Gibson couldn’t turn it over the line from a yard out and the keeper shielded the ball. Then after Hardie had done all the hard work, through his pace, and squared the ball to Gibson, his fellow forward blazed over from eight yards.
Falkirk’s coach Alan Maybury had brought himself on to shore up the visitors defence and it nearly drastically backfired. Jeffries fizzed a ball into the box and the veteran defender very nearly turned it into his own net. Former West Ham keeper Deniz Mehmet had to be quick to save from his own player.
Three minutes later Rangers had the opener, Sinnamon whipped a cross right onto the head of Brownlie and the big centre-half made no mistake by burying his header.
By this point McLeod had joined proceedings and was looking mightily good, breathing new life into the game. His first move in a blue jersey was to curl a decent shot just wide. Then he won a free-kick in a dangerous area and while Thompson couldn’t lift the dead ball over the wall the Belfast boy followed it up by drilling a shot at Mehmet.
McLeod had a penalty shout waved away as he skipped into the box and was felled. Then two minutes later Falkirk had their equaliser, Gers defence left Gostomski horribly exposed and Smith was there to apply the final touch.
It was now end to end stuff and Thompson was denied a winner by a last ditch tackle as he linked up with a square ball. The midfielder had another chance saved on 88 minutes after a burst of pace from McLeod saw Gers pour forward.
Their attacking intent maybe harmed the under 20s though. A minute into injury time Hippolyte wound up a pacey shot from range and unleashed it at Gostomski, the Pole couldn’t hold and spilled the ball at Bob McHugh’s feet, who tapped it home. Rangers didn’t have a chance to respond.
RANGERS: Gostomski, Sinnamon, Mills, Ashmore, Brownlie, McCrorie, Jeffries (McLeod 74’), Dykes, Hardie, Thompson, Gibson (Roberts 68’)
Subs not used: Robby McCrorie, Lang, Lyon, Currie, Brandon