Rangers put pressure on Celtic, opening up a four point gap with a tremendous second half performance at Fir Park. After constantly tinkering with his formation just after taking over, Stuart McCall now seems to have settled on a 4-4-2 with two wingers, two deep-lying midfielders and Francis Jeffers dropping off to link play. In recent matches he has started with two inverted wingers in Jamie Murphy and Steve Jones which was the case again in this match.
Rangers lined up similarly, the major difference being the nature of their wingers which is explained below. Walter Smith’s side dominated possession in the first half but didn’t trouble Darren Randolph other than for the goal. In fact, it was Allan McGregor that was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the opening period. After a disjointed start, Rangers opened the scoring through Kyle Lafferty then settled into a decent passing game which they upped to devastating effect in the second half.
Motherwell created a few decent chances without playing too well in the first half and struggled to create anything at all in the second. They defended extremely poorly after half time, especially Stephen Craigen, who was pulled out of position for the second goal and caught under the ball for the third.
Wylde and Naismith
Whereas Gregg Wylde would stay wide and try to get around the outside of Motherwell right-back Maurice Ross, Steven Naismith would drift inside and look for space in between the lines. This gave Rangers three men, and therefore a man advantage, in the centre of the pitch. It had the added effect of allowing Steven Whittaker to get forward down the right and join in attacks.
During the second half, Naismith’s position became deeper and he spent a lot of time in and around the centre circle level with Maurice Edu, looking to collect the ball and start off attacks. This is effectively where the large margin of victory came from as Rangers easily bypassed the Motherwell midfield time and time again and could have scored a few more than they did.
Both Naismith and Wylde were involved in the play leading up to the second and third goals, Wylde then set up Naismith for the fourth and Naismith added the fifth late on.
Davis and Edu
Steven Davis and Edu again made up the centre of midfield. In the recent Old Firm match, Davis sat the deeper of the two and looked to dictate play. In this match, the starting positions saw Edu sit deeper although he was the more inclined to drive forward off the ball. He spent large portions of the first half around the edge of the box but rarely got involved in attacks and looked lost.
In the second half, Rangers attacked through central positions much more effectively and Davis was involved in much of this. He made several bursting runs forward with the ball and should have added to his early second half goal.
Less than ten minutes into the second half, and just after Davis’s goal, Walter Smith had a word with Edu and from then on in the match, the US international sat the deeper of the two and allowed Davis to get forward more often as Rangers looked to score as many as possible and reduce the goal difference deficit between them and Celtic.
ESPN awarded Naismith the man of the match award, which was a justified choice, although in fairness it could just as easily gone to Davis. They completely overran Steve Jennings and Keith Lasley and it was their side's dominance of this area of the pitch that ultimately won the game so convincingly for Rangers.