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Warburton: Rangers have blown a chance to turn up heat

By Andy Newport

Mark Warburton admitted his sloppy Rangers let an opportunity slip through their grasp as they failed to take the chance to go level on points with second-placed Aberdeen.

The Ibrox men were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Tommy Wright's impressive St Johnstone. And while the Perth men now move up to third, Gers stay fifth after they could only muster a Joe Garner header in response to Blair Alston's early opener.

Warburton said: "It was a decent first half. We went down to a very good goal then worked hard to get the goal back.

"But the second half was below our standard. It was an opportunity missed. It was a decent first half but we didn't continue and we gave the ball away cheaply. We weren't brave getting out, despite the possession stats we didn't play how we wanted to."

Rangers were looking to grab some much-needed confidence after losing to Celtic in Sunday's Betfred Cup semi-final.

Warburton freshened up his side, recalling keeper Wes Foderingham while rolling out a new-look attack as Garner, Harry Forrester and Michael O'Halloran all came in to start.

But they found themselves behind after just five minutes as Alston punished Northern Ireland international Lee Hodson's hesitancy by pinching the ball and sweeping a sublime strike into the top corner.

Saints had been the first defeat to defeat Warburton's team last year but they were denied another win as Garner powered home a header from Josh Windass' corner on 37 minutes.

However, Gers stumbled their way through the second half and were lucky not to suffer a worse fate when Alston thumped the base of Foderingham's post, with the ball rebounding away.

Warburton insisted, though, that his side were not suffering an Old Firm hangover despite seeing them drop points at home for the third time this campaign.

"Sunday's game didn't affect us," he said. "They played Sunday too so there are no excuses that way. The semi-final was an emotionally draining game but it's part of playing for a club like this, there are no excuses."

The Ibrox faithful were not slow letting their manager know what they thought about a result which sees them drop nine points behind Ladbrokes Premiership leaders Celtic, who have played a game less.

But Warburton told his players they must learn to cope with expectations.

He said: "It's a demanding crowd because they're used to success. The players have to recognise it's an expectant crowd - and quite rightly. We have to respect that and learn from that.

Former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Wright was delighted with his team as they moved into the European slots but admitted there is still a long way to go.

"It was a good start and an excellent performance," he said. "It's never easy coming here. We're happy to take a point but we could have taken all three as we had a few good chances in the second half.

"We knew we would stay above Rangers with a positive result. We're content with the return but there are no prizes given out so we're not going to get carried away with it."

Belfast Telegraph


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