IT was far from ideal preparation for an upcoming Old Firm encounter as Rangers slumped to a 3-3 draw against Ross County in Dingwall on Saturday.
The thrilling contest was enjoyable for the neutral, but for Gers fans up and down the country, the display will not have filled them with confidence.
Up next, a trip to Celtic, for the hotly anticipated, and delayed, New Year Old Firm showdown.
It’s set to be a cracker, but manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst has a few deep creases to iron out in his side ahead of the match that will have a huge say in the race for the Scottish Premiership title.
Here’s what Herald and Times Sport learned from the end-to-end contest in the Highlands.
Allan McGregor goalkeeping issues
Allan McGregor had a howler in the Highlands and was at fault for two of Ross County’s three goals. The first error looked like a run of the mill cross for the experienced goalkeeper to collect in his grasp, but instead, he spilt straight into the path of Jordan White, who coolly slotted into an empty net. McGregor was also at fault for County’s 95th-minute equaliser when he failed to command his box and claim the ball after it had dropped on the six-yard line from a corner. Nobody can forget McGregor’s stunning form last season that led Rangers to the title, but he has been far off that level this term. The Ibrox club had been linked with St Johnstone’s Zander Clark and Dundee United’s Benjamin Siegrist at the start of January, but those moves appear to have gone quiet with just a day left of the transfer window. Jon McLaughlin yesterday signed a new deal, that will keep him at the club until 2024, and it will be interesting to see whether he is thrown into the action at Celtic Park on Wednesday.
Joe Aribo holds the key
Joe Aribo made his return to the Rangers starting XI in Dingwall after his spell away on international duty with Nigeria. The attacking midfielder oozed quality and was the standout player on the park once again for the champions. There was talk that Aribo could exit Ibrox this January, but as previously mentioned, with a day left of the window, it looks as though Gers fans will get to enjoy him for a little longer. The 25-year-old linked play, provided a killer assist and looked a threat going forward every time he got his foot on the ball. His post-match reaction was also scathing as he blasted a lack of focus from his teammates in the dying stages. Aribo is a born winner and his presence and creativity in the final third will be key heading into some key fixtures in the title race.
Connor Goldson here to stay?
Connor Goldson netted Rangers’ third goal that looked to be the winner before Ross County’s Matthew Wright cancelled it out in stoppage time. Goldson’s goal sparked wild scenes in the away end, but his own celebration was also of interest. The English defender thumped the Rangers badge as he made his way towards the away support and after the game Kris Boyd speculated that could be a sign that he is remaining with Van Bronckhorst’s side. Goldson has been locked in talks with Rangers for some time now over a new contract and he has also been linked with numerous clubs down south. The player himself has discussed how his next move will be dependent on what is right for his family. Goldson’s level of performance has suffered slightly due as a result of his transfer uncertainty and Rangers need to get a new deal completed as soon as possible if he has decided Ibrox is where his future lies.
Cedric Itten is not the answer
Cedric Itten led the line for Rangers before he was replaced on the hour mark by Kemar Roofe. The big Swiss frontman has a presence up top, but on Saturday he failed to make that count. Up the other end, Ross County’s Jordan White was utilised in a similar role and his performance topped Itten’s by a mile, despite an obvious drop in service from those around him, with Rangers having more of the ball. Itten was recalled from his loan spell with German outfit Greuther Furth earlier this window, with Alfredo Morelos away on international duty. The Colombian is set to miss three games for his club, including Wednesday’s crucial contest at Parkhead. Morelos will be a huge miss and Itten will need to step up his level if given the nod. Roofe came on and made an impact at the Global Energy Arena, but there are still questions over his fitness after returning from an unspecified knock.
Amad Diallo looks a game changer
Manchester United star Amad Diallo must have thought Scottish football would be plain sailing as he netted the first goal of his Rangers loan spell in under five minutes against Ross County. But instead, his team were on the end of a sucker punch leveller that resulted in two crucial points being dropped in the race to the Premiership trophy. Diallo looked a threat throughout and his close control and neat trickery will certainly add a different dimension to the Gers attack. The 19-year-old linked up well with Joe Aribo and Ryan Kent when in attack and he also formed a decent partnership with James Tavernier down the right flank. The Rangers skipper hasn’t bombed on as much as he did last season down the right, but Diallo’s movement and cover meant that he was in the opposition box on numerous occasions, including for his goal on 50 minutes. Diallo limped off on 66 minutes and was replaced by Fashion Sakala. The extent of his knock is currently unknown, but Rangers fans will be hoping it is nothing serious as he could act as a surprise package on Wednesday night.