SPL

Rangers title hopes suffer blow after first-ever defeat to Ross County

By Sports Desk April 14, 2024

Ross County delivered a body blow to Rangers’ cinch Premiership title hopes in Dingwall with their first-ever win over the Ibrox side.

When Staggies skipper Jack Baldwin scored an own goal after 15 minutes it already looked a long way back for the home side but two goals in three minutes soon after the break from Simon Murray and George Harmon turned the game on its head before Josh Sims added a third after 69 minutes.

Gers skipper James Tavernier netted a penalty in the 89th minute following VAR intervention but the spirited home side held on for a momentous 3-2 win which also boosts their bid to avoid relegation.

After 20 defeats and four draws in 24 games against Rangers, the Dingwall club had at last registered a long-awaited win over the Govan club and its ramifications affect both ends of the table as second-bottom County moved to within a point of 10th-placed St Johnstone.

With six fixtures remaining Philippe Clement’s side are four points behind leaders Celtic with a game in hand against Dundee at Dens Park on Wednesday night but it is the Hoops who now look to be in command.

Once again Rangers, with Borna Barisic, Kieran Dowell, Todd Cantwell and Abdallah Sima back in the side, found themselves under the pressure of trying to reduce the gap behind their Old Firm rivals.

Ross Laidlaw, Yan Dhanda, Sims, Victor Loturi and  Harmon were restored to Don Cowie’s side who started the game nine points ahead of bottom side Livingston.

County had the first attempt on goal within minutes when Michee Efete’s cross from the right found Harmon at the back post but under pressure from Sima he scoped the ball over the bar.

Rangers struggled to get into their rhythm but they were gifted the lead following Tavernier’s corner from the right.

Portuguese attacker Silva headed on and in his attempt to clear while facing his own net and challenging Gers defender John Souttar, Baldwin succeeded only in knocking the ball over the line as Laidlaw failed to keep it out although it took a while before the goal registered with the travelling fans at the other end of the ground.

The game opened up further and Laidlaw saved a decent shot from Cantwell before Gers keeper Jack Baldwin kept out a low drive from Sims with Laidlaw saving further efforts from Sima and striker Cyriel Dessers.

In the 38th minute, amid a spell of County pressing, Harmon lifted a shot high over the bar from close range as did Dessers at the other end before the break.

The game took an unexpected twist at the start of the second half when energetic County striker Murray levelled at the second attempt, driving in after Butland had blocked his first shot with his foot.

Rangers were still coming to terms with that setback when Murray found himself with space again before unleashing a drive which Butland spilled but Harmon was on hand to drive into the net.

The Govan side shook themselves and Dessers and Sima had efforts of varying quality before Sima used his hand to knock the ball into the County net with the ‘goal’ ruled out.

The home side ran up the pitch moments later and scored a third, Murray breaking into the box and setting up Sims to show composure before beating Butland from close range

Cantwell struck the bar with a terrific effort six minutes later and then VAR Andrew Dallas flagged up a possible handball from County substitute Brandon Khela inside the box and referee Matthew MacDermid awarded a penalty after a monitor check which Tavernier converted, but there was to be no comeback.

Rangers slipped up against the most unlikeliest of opponents and it may prove fatal.

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