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This is how it feels (The Rangers 21 11 2021)

This is how it feels after beating a much fancied favourite at Hampden in the semi final of a cup …….. bloody BRILIANT!! Like most I suspect, I travelled through to Glasgow more in hope than expectation but the boys in green and white were exceptional to a man and thoroughly deserve to look forward to the final.

Jack Ross made a couple of changes to his starting eleven after what seems like yonks since we last played a competitive match. In came Cadden and young Josh Campbell at the expense of Gogic, who was on the bench and Murphy who didn’t feature at all. Setting up as a 3-5-2, Boyle seemed to be given freedom to roam in supporting Nisbet up front and boy did he enjoy that role.

With the majority of the crowd there to support the Rangers, there was still a cracking atmosphere amongst the Hibs support, singing throughout and generally having a great time. Of course, the fans in blue (or should that be orange?) made plenty of noise themselves when singing their repertoire of ‘football songs’ but in the end, they were quick to walk away towards the final whistle.

In a frantic start to the game, Paul Hanlon was booked inside the first minute for a hefty challenge on Aribo. Our captain still had eighty nine minutes to play but as time would prove it didn’t stop him giving full commitment to our cause. A couple of minutes later, Joe Newell also saw yellow, Aribo again being fouled, and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the foul alone might have meant just a stern finger wagging from Kevin Clancy, but Joe also kicked the ball away and the Clancy wasn’t having that.

Both teams were going at it and as the ten minute mark arrived, Hibs took the lead after Goldson conceded a corner. Newell’s delivery arrived at the far post where the ball struck Tavernier and fell to Martin Boyle who saw McGregor go down to dive and neatly lifted the ball over him and into the net. It was a cracking start for Hibs, and no more than their early attacking play deserved. Five minutes later, Morelos brought a save out of Macey but in truth it was a poor effort and easily saved.

The Rangers were pushing to get back into things and McGinn conceded a corner around the twenty minute mark. Macey collected the cross and started a move that saw Hibs sweep down the park to double their lead. Marin Boyle was set up by a wonderful through ball from Nisbet and the flying winger blasted the ball past a helpless McGregor to stun the Rangers support. In reaction, Arfield fired in a long range effort, but it didn’t trouble Macey who collected easily.

Once again, the Rangers tried to get back into the game, but Hibs were resolute in their defending and afforded them very few clear sights on goal. One or two efforts did come in but were either over the bar, wide of goal or, impressively, charged down by the Hibs defenders. Even though Hibs were facing these challenges on their own goal they were still very much in the hunt for a goal of their own and one arrived some seven minutes before the break. Boyle, who had been running the Rangers ragged, was cleaned out in the box by Steven Davis. After dusting himself off, Boyle smashed the ball down the middle as McGregor dived to his right.

We Hibs fans were in heaven by this point but took a dent to our confidence when Porteous, who had been outstanding throughout, sclaffed a clearance allowing Arfield to fire home from around ten yards. Needless to say, that goal got the Rangers fans roaring their side on whilst we Hibs fans heaved sighs of relief when first Goldson and then Balogun sent headed efforts over the bar.

It was always going to be the case that the Rangers would come at us after the half time break and come at us they did but once again sound defending and throwing bodies on the line caused chances to be blocked and/or repelled. Around the hour mark, Doig was forced off through injury and Lewis Stevenson entered the fray with the minimum of fuss and maximum of concentration for the job at hand. The Rangers were starting to panic by now and made the first of a host of changes, bringing Sakala into play in place of Ryan Kent. I’ll be honest, that change baffled me because Kent had looked a threat throughout. If that change baffled me, one of the changes made five minutes later by the Rangers had me thoroughly confused and somewhat delighted. Hagi for Arfield was fair enough but Jack for Aribo had me smiling big time because Aribo was by far their most dangerous player. Still, who cares about their thought processes?

In truth, the Rangers were largely dominating possession, but I confess I enjoyed the fact that, every time they passed sideways or backwards, the howls from the largely orange coated fans gave me huge satisfaction. We were repelling them with a degree of ease, and they did not like that one little bit.

Ten minutes from time, Porteous had to be replaced due to injury and Darren McGregor came into the game. For that last ten minutes and the five added by Clancy, big Daz gave no quarter and took no prisoners. At the same time, Christian Doidge replaced Kevin Nisbet and got a massive cheer from the Hibs support, delighted that the big man was back in action.

When Cadden and Doidge started taking the ball to the corner flag to run the clock down, Barisic was so infuriated, he took a swipe at Cadden but obviously the red card it should have been was only yellow. Into time added on and the Rangers were still trying to figure out how to breach the Hibs defence and they had a great chance to do so when the ball fell kindly to Goldson, but the big defender fired his effort miles over the bar with the goal gaping in front of him.

As Kevin Clancy blew for full time the Hibs players rejoiced on the park and the Hibs supporters were going bananas in the stands. After the obligatory hand shakes the players and all of those on the Hibs bench made their way to ‘Sir David Gray’ corner to join in and dance with a delighted support.

The players

Every single one of them deserve huge credit

Macey – Big Matt had a couple of routine saves but nothing of great note, protected as he was by the ten in front of him. I was delighted to see him, on numerous occasions, come off his line to collect high crosses into our box.

McGinn – What a fabulous pro Paul is. Gave his all and dealt well with the tricky Ryan Kent whilst still managing to get forward on occasion. There was a couple of times defensively that he came in behind our central defenders and helped clear away any danger.

Porteous – Ryan was immense but for that one expensive sclaff. If Morelos was trying to wind him up it didn’t work as the portly Columbian was hardly involved in the game.

Hanlon – As if to answer those critics who suggested his new contract was undeserved, Paul led the team brilliantly tonight and for my money showed exactly why the club value him so much. Even with that early yellow he played without fear and hardly put a foot wrong.

Cadden – I’ll be honest and say I’ve not really been sold on him so far, but he was excellent and worked super hard both in attack and defence.

Doyle-Hayes – Jake was back to his early season form tonight and run himself into the ground. His use of the ball was impressive, and his reading of the game was top notch.

Campbell – If there’s a blade of grass on the Hampden pitch that Josh didn’t cover then I’d like to see it. For a young lad with such little experience, he looked like playing the Rangers at Hampden was something he’d not worry about.

Newell – I’ve said before that I think there are games when Joe is invisible but that was certainly not the case tonight. When he fired into Aribo after just three minutes you could tell he meant business.

Doig – For me, Josh had his best game in a while and certainly had Tavernier defending more often than he’s used to. He and Newell pretty much had that side of the park well under control.

Nisbet – I’ve heard and read all the comments about Kevin being lazy and huffy and to be fair I’ve agreed with some of that but there can be no accusations tonight because he put in a good shift both on and off the ball and his pass for the second goal was inch perfect.

Boyle – With the air miles he’s put in recently it wouldn’t have surprised me if he’d been a bit lethargic but instead, he delighted me by playing ninety five minutes of high octane football. Three goals is obviously impressive but I was also impressed when, on one occasion, the Rangers broke swiftly and Boyler raced back seventy yards at speed to thwart that attack in the left back area. Easily my man of the match but every one of his team mates deserves huge plaudits.

Stevenson – It must give Jack Ross enormous pleasure to know that if Josh gets injured or loses form, he’s got the always reliable Lewis Stevenson to step in, as he did tonight to good effect.

McGregor – I bet Morelos muttered ‘Aw Naw’ in Spanish when he spotted Daz coming on to replace Porteous. Daz did the job as he always does when called upon.

Doidge – Fantastic to see the big fella back in business and impressive to see two opponents bouncing off him when he was protecting the ball at the corner flag.

Jack Ross – Maybe those who rattle on about ‘big games’ and ‘bottling it at Hampden’ will take some time off now. Jack deserves as much credit as the players because his tactics and team selection were spot on.

The referee – Kevin Clancy got busy early with his cards and whilst I’m a tad miffed that numerous fouls on Hibs players were not fouls in his eyes, I have to grudgingly concede that by his own (low) standards he had a decent game.

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