Time is up for Rangers in Premiership and could soon be for Giovanni van Bronckhorst at Ibrox
IT was another one of those days. Rangers and Giovanni van Bronckhorst have had too many of them now.
Results like this are not sustainable for teams that want to challenge for titles, never mind win them. And they are not acceptable for a manager that finds himself on the brink.
Rangers now sit seven points adrift of Celtic at the top of the Premiership. Those of a glass half full persuasion in the boardroom and the dressing room may believe the race is still on, but it is becoming harder and harder for them to make that argument as their voices are drowned out by the dissenting ones from a furious support.
Goals from James Brown and Nicky Clark condemned Van Bronckhorst’s side to a wretched defeat. A James Tavernier effort was meaningless at McDiarmid Park and will prove to be inconsequential in the bigger picture after Rangers lost further ground on their Old Firm rivals.
Rangers are all-but done in the Premiership. And Van Bronckhorst is all-but done as boss. In both situations, it is only a matter of when those at Ibrox wish to admit it.
This was a day that summed up all that is wrong with Rangers. Defensive deficiencies cost them dear, but not as much as their inability to create and score goals.
The statistics from a one-sided first half said it all about the flow of this encounter. But the most important one was against Rangers as their dominance counted for nothing.
Van Bronckhorst’s side had three quarters of the possession and a dozen corners. They overshadowed St Johnstone with 17 shots to their three.
The scoreline was all that mattered, though. And it was that fact that prompted another chorus of boos from a support that have found their voice in such a manner too often in recent weeks.
There were aspects of the performance to be pleased with, yet Rangers were punished for failing to capitalise when they were on top and it was a smash-and-grab from St Johnstone as they returned up the tunnel with the lead.
It was an advantage nobody in the home ranks could have argued that they deserved. The Saints spent large swathes of the half on the back foot and struggling to contain Rangers as they started brightly and seemed certain to break the deadlock sooner rather than later.
When that moment came just four minutes from the whistle, it was done in quite spectacular fashion. Out of nowhere, Brown brought McDiarmid Park to its feet.
Rangers were complicit in their downfall. After John Lundstram carelessly conceded possession in the middle of the park, Tavernier failed to clear his lines and the threat was only half snuffed out when Stevie May was thwarted on the edge of the area.
There would have been few who could have foreseen what would come next. Brown took a touch to steady himself and his second was a thunderbolt from the man in blue.
It had pace, power and precision as Allan McGregor was left flailing. Rangers were stunned and somehow had to regroup and go again at the break.
Most of the messages from Van Bronckhorst would have been to keep doing what they were doing but there had to be a finishing touch to go with the encouraging build-up. Possession without an end product will always be pointless and aimless crosses crept in once again.
Rangers have been guilty of stumbling rather than sprinting out of the blocks so often this season but they couldn’t be accused of such sluggishness this time around. There was a purpose about their play initially and the first chance arrived after just two minutes as Andrew Considine blocked a Ryan Kent effort.
Keeper Elliott Parish was forced into action shortly afterwards. This was his chance to impress following the injury to first-choice Remi Matthews and Parish would have been expecting a busier first 45 minutes between the sticks.
He flapped at a ball that Malik Tillman diverted back across goal and denied Antonio Colak and did well to get down to a low strike from Lundstram. A Colak header was also dealt with routinely.
There were times when Parish had to thank those in front of him. Rangers cut through the Saints midfield on a regular basis but the last line of defence came to the fore as Clark blocked a Fashion Sakala header and Considine made a terrific block when Colak seemed certain to score.
It was Sakala that came the closest to finally finding a way through the Saints defence. When all of those in blue were beaten, the crossbar came to their rescue and the sight of the ball coming back off the woodwork would ultimately sum up a frustrating first half for Rangers.
There were no changes from Van Bronckhorst at the break. Rangers didn’t deserve to be behind, but when you are as profligate in the final third, it is hard to argue too strenuously that you merited being ahead.
Come the hour mark, and with only a curler from Kent that Parish saved easily to show for their efforts, Van Bronckhorst decided it was time for change. Alfredo Morelos replaced Tillman and Scott Arfield entered the action as Ben Davies was withdrawn and James Sands reverted to centre-back.
Within seconds, St Johnstone doubled their lead. Leon King was beaten far too easily by May on the far side and the cross, in between Sands and Borna Barisic, found Clark as the Saints had a historic victory in their sights.
As the clock ticked down, it wasn’t just the minutes of this match that were disappearing all too quickly for Van Bronckhorst. Time was now against Rangers in the title race.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, the there was a glimmer of hope in the Perthshire sunshine. Tavernier rifled a strike through a sea of bodies and beat Parish as Rangers finally had the bit between their teeth.
Lundstram rattled the bar from 30 yards and Parish saved a Tavernier header but Rangers became increasingly desperate. Time after time, St Johnstone stood firm.
The cheers of celebration were as loud as the torrent of boos and abuse at the whistle. This was a day for the Saints to savour but an appalling one for Rangers.
Time was up at McDiarmid Park. Sooner rather than later, time will be up at Ibrox too.