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
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