Warburton be­moans ‘poor’ late dis­play as Miller en­sures points

Striker scores his 100th goal in Scot­tish league foot­ball as Rangers man­ager singles out Foder­ing­ham for praise

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW LIND­SAY

MARK WARBURTON, the Rangers man­ager, last night sav­aged his side’s late dis­play against Queen of the South de­spite see­ing them win 1-0 and move eight points clear once again in the Lad­brokes Cham­pi­onship.

The league lead­ers, whose ad­van­tage at the top of the ta­ble was cut to five points be­fore kick-off when near­est ri­vals Hiber­nian beat Al­loa Ath­letic at Easter Road, strug­gled to break down their op­po­nents at Palmer­ston Park.

A stun­ning vol­ley from Kenny Miller, who re­placed Nicky Clark af­ter an hour and net­ted his 100th goal in Scot­tish league foot­ball, ul­ti­mately en­sured the Ibrox club tri­umphed

How­ever, Warburton, whose side were with­out lead­ing scorer Martyn Waghorn, was scathing about how his team per­formed to­wards the end of their third match in a row on an ar­ti­fi­cial pitch against Queens.

“It was an im­por­tant three points and my first mes­sage to the play­ers was ‘well done’ but that’s prob­a­bly as poor as we’ve been all sea­son in the last 20 min­utes of the se­cond half,” he said

“We gave the ball away cheaply, we sat too deep and we gave them too much time and space. Wes Foder­ing­ham pulled off two or three out­stand­ing saves. I’ve said be­fore that we’ve played well and didn’t get the re­wards, but to­day we’ll take that be­cause we played poorly for the last 20 min­utes.

“Kenny has trained re­ally well and sets a good ex­am­ple. He came off the bench and got the goal which was re­ally im­por­tant. But as a squad we can be bet­ter. That was as poor as we’ve been all sea­son in the last 20 min­utes. But we’ve come to a tough venue against a good team in form and we’ve got three points.”

Warburton ad­mit­ted his side had missed Martyn Waghorn, who suf­fered a knee in­jury in the 2-1 win over Kil­marnock in the Scot­tish Cup last week, and sin­gled out keeper Foder­ing­ham, who pulled off two vi­tal saves at the death, for spe­cial praise.

“I’m not go­ing to say we won’t miss a guy who has scored 28 goals – of course we will,” added Warburton. “But we have re­ally good play­ers on the bench. That tells you we are in good shape. We’ll miss Martyn but it’s about the squad.

“I think Wes is an out­stand­ing player. He’s still young, but his dis­tri­bu­tion is great and he is good with the ball at his feet. His re­ac­tion saves are first class. You might say he’s not the tallest at 6ft 1in but he dom­i­nates his box as well. Wes has been out­stand­ing.

“In a lot of games he doesn’t touch the ball for long pe­ri­ods but he main­tains con­cen­tra­tion well. All credit to him to­day, he made two or three great saves but he has been out­stand­ing all sea­son.

“He’s a young player who has come from play­ing in front of five, six, seven thou­sand to be­ing at home in front of forty-five or fifty thou­sand. He’s learn­ing from it, deal­ing with it and han­dling the pres­sure that comes with it. He’s a baby in terms of be­ing a keeper at 24.”

James Fowler, the Queen of the South man­ager, felt his side, who lost their top scorer Derek Lyle to in­jury af­ter half an hour, were un­lucky not to get at least a draw from the game.

“I felt we were camped in a wee bit in the first half, with Rangers dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion, but we tweaked it at half time and that gave us more im­pe­tus,” said Fowler

“They are a qual­ity team and dan­ger­ous on the counter at­tack and you have to give them re­spect. It’s about how we fash­ion chances and I felt in the se­cond half we cre­ated enough chances to at least get a point.”

RANGERS got life with­out Martyn Waghorn, their first-choice striker and lead­ing scorer, un­der way with a slen­der win which re­stored their eight-point ad­van­tage over Hibs at the head of the Cham­pi­onship ta­ble.

Yet, the man­ner in which the Ibrox club laboured up front for long spells with­out the English­man, whose ser­vices they will be with­out for at least six weeks as a re­sult of the knee in­jury he sus­tained last week, will surely be a slight con­cern.

It took an out­ra­geous long-range strike from Kenny Miller, a se­cond-half sub­sti­tute, to give the vis­i­tors the lead in Dum­fries and they had to with­stand pres­sure to­wards the end of a fierce­ly­con­tested match to sew up the points.

Hav­ing had their lead re­duced to five points by their near­est chal­lengers, who have a game in hand to play against Mor­ton at home on Wed­nes­day evening, be­fore kick-off af­ter Hibs’ 3-0 vic­tory at home over Al­loa it was a pro­fes­sional dis­play and a sat­is­fy­ing re­sult.

Rangers were un­ques­tion­ably, though, not the same side with­out Waghorn, who has plun­dered no fewer than 28 goals dur­ing the 2015/16 cam­paign, lead­ing the line for them.

Nicky Clark was given the nod to start the game in the ab­sence of his team-mate. It was an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for a player who is out of con­tract in the sum­mer to prove his worth and stake a claim for an ex­ten­sion. He worked hard, as he al­ways does, but failed to im­press and was re­moved from the field early in the se­cond half.

Miller is an ex­pe­ri­enced player and he was ul­ti­mately the dif­fer­ence be­tween the teams with what was his 100th league goal in his home­land. But, at 36, how much can his club can rely on them as they push for the se­cond-tier ti­tle and a place in the top flight?

Warburton made three changes to the side which had knocked Kil­marnock out of the cup six days ear­lier. Clark took over from Waghorn in at­tack, Billy King came in on the left flank and Michael O’Hal­lo­ran re­placed Miller wide on the right.

Andy Hal­l­i­day dropped back into the hold­ing mid­fielder role as Dominic Ball found him­self on the bench. It was, with Bar­rie McKay re­tain­ing his place in the start­ing line-up and op­er­at­ing be­hind the lone striker, an at­tack­ing side.

Queens man­ager James Fowler, mean­while, was un­able to field Andy Murdoch, the cen­tral mid­fielder who is on loan from Rangers, in his team. Mark Mil­lar took over from the young­ster in what was the only change to the side which had edged out St Mir­ren at home the week be­fore.

Queens en­joyed con­sid­er­able suc­cess against Rangers at home play­ing a counter-at­tack­ing game last sea­son and they set up in a 4-2-3-1 for­ma­tion in the hope of pun­ish­ing Warburton’s men on the break once again.

The home team cer­tainly started in a pos­i­tive fash­ion. Derek Lyle forced a fine save from Wes Foder­ing­ham with a header at a Mil­lar cor­ner in just the third minute. But the vis­i­tors soon took con­trol of pro­ceed­ings. King, McKay and O’Hal­lo­ran probed for an open­ing and it looked to be only a mat­ter of time be­fore they cre­ated one.

Clark should re­ally have put Rangers in front in the 19th minute when Jim Atkin­son failed to hold a long-range ef­fort from Hal­l­i­day. The for­ward pounced on the ball, but his shot was, de­spite the fact he had time to steady him­self, straight at the keeper who de­nied him with his feet.

Derek Lyle hob­bled off in­jured on the half-hour mark and Iain Rus­sell came on. It was a set­back for Queens given that the striker had net­ted three times against Rangers last sea­son and is their most pro­lific marks­man this term with 11 goals to his name.

But Lewis Kidd very nearly put them in front five min­utes be­fore half-time when the ball broke to him on the edge of the Rangers penalty box at a cor­ner. His pow­er­ful left-foot drive was only de­nied by the cross­bar.

A poor at­tempt at a headed clear­ance by Rob Kier­nan gifted Jake Pickard a shot at goal five min­utes af­ter the restart. He was for­tu­nate his op­po­nent, pos­si­bly star­tled at the chance he had been gifted, failed to take ad­van­tage.

It be­came clear early in the se­cond half that Warburton needed to make changes in or­der to break down a side that was sit­ting back in­creas­ingly. He made a dou­ble sub­sti­tu­tion af­ter an hour putting on Dean Shiels and Miller for King and Clark re­spec­tively. His re­place­ments made an im­me­di­ate dif­fer­ence.

Miller broke the dead­lock just a few min­utes af­ter com­ing on af­ter re­ceiv­ing pos­ses­sion from his cap­tain Lee Wal­lace at a throw-in on the left wing. He let rip from the edge of the penalty box and his at­tempt arched beyond Atkin­son into the top right cor­ner.

The Rangers sup­port­ers stand­ing on the ter­races in the away end un­furled ban­ners which read Fans Not Crim­i­nals and SNP and SFA Killing Foot­ball in the first half in protest at the Of­fen­sive Be­hav­iour at Foot­ball and Threat­en­ing Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Act and scuf­fles broke out in the se­cond half as fans were pre­vented from hold­ing up an­other ban­ner by po­lice and stew­ards.

Queen of the South fought hard for an equaliser and Ryan Con­roy had a free-kick and Chris Higgins a glanc­ing header bril­liantly de­nied by Foder­ing­ham. It would have been no in­jus­tice if they had lev­elled and snatched a point.

CALL­ING THE SHOTS: Mark Warburton belts outin­struc­tions to his Rangers troops yes­ter­day

RED PERIL: Kenny Miller, main pic­ture, is mobbed by his team-mates af­ter scor­ing from his spec­u­la­tive shot. James Tav­ernier, left, chal­lenges Jor­dan Mar­shall

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