Daily Record

We’re a work in Praguegres­s

Souttar and Butland hail Clement effect as new manager’s switch earns clean sheet


JOHN SOUTTAR knows rangers weren’t good enough for 45 minutes in prague but insists getting it right after the break to come away with a point is massive for their europa league hopes.

The Ibrox centre-back was thrust into a three-man defence as new boss Philippe Clement was forced into a defensive shakeup due to having no left-backs.

Borna Barisic’s weekend injury and Ridvan Yilmaz not being included in the Euro squad left him with a puzzle in Prague.

But Souttar, Connor Goldson and Ben Davies – aided by a Jack Butland super show behind them – repelled a Sparta onslaught in the first half before coming out firing after the break when they could have pinched all three points late on after hitting the bar through Danilo.

The Scotland internatio­nal was satisfied with the point, though, particular­ly after that nerve-shredding first period.

He said: “There were maybe moments where we could have been better out of possession but we’ve not had a lot of time to work on the new system.

“We only had two or three days at it after the Hibs game but we did well in the end, defended well and got the clean sheet.

“A lot of us have played [with three centre-backs] in the past. But there are different ways to play it – a back five, a back three.

“The way the manager plays it is a bit different to the way we’ve all played it in the past. It’s more of a back three, going man for man and being brave.

“It will take time, so we have to adjust to it but it looked good and it is a big point.”

Clement had a massive halftime talk to deliver, such had been the Czechs’ dominance, but Souttar insists the shift in momentum after the break was as much down to the players’ desire to pose Sparta more problems than they had. He said: “Look, this isn’t an easy place to go. First half we could have been better on the ball and second half we were, creating chances and in the last 10 minutes it looked like we were going to score.

“But throughout we defended well. First half we probably gave away too many chances.

“Second half, especially, we were solid as a unit.

“I don’t think the manager changed the message because the message was the same.

“It was more us on the pitch creating better angles, moving the ball quicker.

“Sparta pressed us really high in the first half, which didn’t allow us to play out as well as we could.

“But once we got used to it and started creating better angles, we created chances.”

The former Hearts defender believes there will be far more to come from Rangers when Clement has had longer to work with the squad he inherited from Michael Beale only a week ago.

Since then, a comprehens­ive 4-0 win over Hibs has been supplement­ed by last night’s battling draw, which keeps their Europa League hopes flying high.

Two home ties will follow against Sparta and then Aris Limassol before a last-day clash away to group leaders Real Betis.

Souttar said: “It’s not been long at all since the manager came in.

“We’ve had two games in that period so it’s an even shorter time to work on different formations, so it’s been tough.

“But he’s been clear with what he expects of us. He wants us to be brave on the ball and play forward.”

And Souttar insists he would be happy to play a back-three system regularly, particular­ly if it means staying in the team more often.

He added: “When you play for a club like Rangers, you want to play every game. It doesn’t matter where, as long as you’re in the team.

“I’m sure everyone who was playing in that formation here will say the same.

“We looked good but there will be times where we play a back four and look good too.

“I don’t think the gaffer has stuck on any formation, he’s flexible. And if you want to play for him you have to be flexible as well.

“For any team, clean sheets are massive, especially in Europe.

“Coming here and getting one is huge. There were times we were under the cosh but stood up to it, which can only be positive moving forward as a team.

“It’s important we take it into Sunday and the following Europa League games.”

A clash against his former club Hearts is next up at Ibrox and Souttar added: “It’s important we just take it game by game. You only create momentum when you win and put on performanc­es.

“So you just have to do it game by game.”

Keeper Butland heaped praise on the men in front of him for helping him claim a clean sheet.

He said: “Yes, I had to make a few saves. But the lads defended awesomely with huge blocks and last-ditch defending, which you need to do at this level because teams are going to get chances.”

Asked about his new boss, Butland said: “It has been a fresh start for everyone here.

“Some boys needed it and just as a club, we needed a change, which is obviously what the club felt as well. We’ve been impressed with the manager. It’s been a good start and it’s up to us to make sure it continues.”

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Souttar is
in to halt
Sparta’s attack
ON SLIDE Souttar is in to halt Sparta’s attack
 ?? ?? CZECH IN Sparta stopper Angelo Preciado is at full stretch as Abdallah Sima pushes forward for Gers
CZECH IN Sparta stopper Angelo Preciado is at full stretch as Abdallah Sima pushes forward for Gers

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