Written off by everyone in a tough away game, including myself, but after the draw under Graeme Murty’s charge at Parkhead, we went one better and came away from Pittodrie with three goals, a clean sheet and a much-needed three points. Strangely, this team seems to perform better when they have the underdog tag around its neck rather than being christened the favourites.
There was no 4-2-3-1 system for Caixinha today. The switch to the 4-1-4-1 shape helped a lot with the defensive solidity. Jason Holt was deployed in the deepest midfield role and he was excellent in there. He closed down the crosses from Aberdeen’s wide areas, which is where their biggest attacking threat comes from and he along with Jon Toral played very well up against Ryan Jack and Graeme Shinnie. Kenny Miller and Martyn Waghorn helped Tavernier and Beerman double up on Hayes and McGinn and it completely negated their threat. McGinn, in particular, was virtually anonymous.
However, in that rigid 4-1-4-1 system we did create the best two chances of the first half and probably should have gone in at the break at least 1-0 ahead. Joe Garner was involved in the two chances – the first one he showed great composure to turn O’Connor inside out but instead of producing a calm finish to put us in front, he completed lost his composure. He then played an outstanding ball across for Waghorn, but true to form, the Geordie missed an absolute sitter – I wouldn’t be shocked if he couldn’t sleep for thinking about it. The number of clear-cut chances he misses is becoming a real problem – I think he should be seeking advice from Kenny Miller in that area.
The beginning of the second half our goal was under siege. Danny Wilson was outstanding in this 15-minute period. He handled Adam Rooney superbly well and again led the defence in a way that he hasn’t been showing since he returned last summer. He even took an elbow to the face, but he battled on and showed why many Rangers fans actually rate the guy. It makes you wonder where he has been hiding these performances.
However, it was the man in yellow we have to thank the most, Wes Foderingham. He pulled off one great save from Rooney when he stopped his goalbound snapshot and his save from McLean’s effort was even better – he got strong wrists behind the stinging effort and saved superbly after seeing the shot at the last minute. Yet again, he has shown just how much he has improved since coming to Ibrox. Every aspect of his game is getting better and better and considering we got him on a free transfer – he is the one Mark Warburton signing that gets the two thumbs up. Top-class display.
Interestingly, Caixinha’s subs and tactical tweaks were a big factor in Rangers winning the game. Off came Hyndman for Windass, and Joe Dodoo came on for Joe Garner. Dodoo went wide and Miller went through the middle to use his energy to press the ball and help us get a little higher up the park. But we have to give credit to young Myles Beerman, not only for his defensive work but for his 60-yard run and bravery that lead to Miller’s opener.
He started the move, which included a Joe Lewis save from a goal-shy Waghorn and the old reliable, Kenny Miller, smashed the rebound into the net. It actually took me a second to realise that the ball had hit the net, but on second viewing it was a fantastic finish. Pedro’s celebration on the touchline was absolutely brilliant – on his knees and he was absolutely buzzing.
We made sure there would be no potential comeback from Aberdeen with two superbly-taken striker’s goals. Miller showed Waghorn how to do it, with a cool finish and Dodoo ran at Logan before firing into the bottom corner. Superb stuff from two strikers at the opposite end of the age spectrum.
I was absolutely delighted with how we managed to grind the win out, it wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. I would say we actually played better football when we went up there at the start of the season and lost.
But It’s a huge plus for the tactical nous of Caixinha. He knew we would have to go there, be resolute and win the battle before we could play. His team selection absolutely spot on by leaving McKay on the bench. There will be games where McKay will be needed, but to use his words it was about “sacrifice” and I for one, at this stage of the season, am happy to give up nice football for wins. It was like a throwback to how Walter Smith used to set up: stay solid at the back, and that gives you a platform to go and win the game.
But again, it’s only one win. It will do wonders for the confidence, but like after every time we have won a match this season, we have to back it up with a run because there is no use winning at Aberdeen and then dropping points against Partick Thistle next week.
But this is a terrific step forward for the manager in such a short period of time. The result and tactical display from the Portuguese will certainly put a few noses out of joint for the people in the ‘Derek McInnes for Rangers manager’ camp.