soccernet blog
January 30, 2011

Steven Naismith's goal fifteen minutes from the end was enough to send Rangers into the first domestic final of the season against Old Firm rivals Celtic.

© SNS Group

Rangers had taken a first-half lead through dynamic midfielder Maurice Edu who blasted home a left-foot shot on 20 minutes from long range. However, Motherwell grew after the break and got back on level terms when Keith Lasley finished from the edge of the box on 66 minutes but the lead only lasted for 9 minutes until Naismith nodded the ball home from just a few yards out.

Walter Smith left Jamie Ness on the bench after an impressive spell in the first-team and brought in Maurice Edu for his first start since the defeat at Tynecastle. Vladimir Weiss was replaced by Kyle Lafferty as Rangers went to 4-4-2 rather than 4-5-1 and 4-3-3 in recent games. Neil Alexander replaced Allan McGregor between the sticks.

January 27, 2011

Rangers got their title challenge back on track with a comfortable 2-0 win against Hibs at Easter Road.

Madjid Bougherra and Nikica Jelavic got on the scoresheet for the champions who were never out of first gear against a woeful Hibs side that sit just 3 points ahead of Hamilton having played 2 games more.

© Mirror Football

Walter Smith made 2 changes for Rangers with Weiss and Jelavic coming in to the starting eleven and both were involved in the first-half goals. Weiss' free-kick went to the back post where Madjid Bougherra pulled away from Ian Murray and lashed home a right-foot volley into the far corner. Nikica Jelavic was back in scoring form as he latched on to a dreadful Richie Towell back pass and slotted the ball into the net on 35 minutes.

It was an effective performance from Walter Smith's side rather than anything spectacular in front of a very poor Easter Road crowd. The win keeps the gap at 5 points but Rangers still have 2 games in hand in the coming weeks.

January 25, 2011

Rangers and Derby County have held talks this morning over the potential transfer of Derby winger Kris Commons to Ibrox.

© Daily Mirror

The Scottish international is out of contract in the summer but Rangers want to take Commons in the January window and Walter Smith today confirmed his interest in signing the 27-year-old. He said: "He's someone we are interested in trying to get. We've made an enquiry and we are in talks with Derby to see what the situation is".

Commons could be available for around £500,000 and the Rams are keen on selling this window rather than having the player at Pride Park having signed a pre-contract with Rangers or Celtic. Smith will be hoping Commons can replicate his form of this season at Ibrox for the rest of the season after Miller's move to Bursaspor. The winger has 14 goals so far this season and also made his international debut for Scotland against the Faroes in November.

Smith added: "It's the same as Kenny Miller with him being out of contract in the summer. He (Bain) was in discussion with them this morning, but I've not had anything back yet."

January 22, 2011

Ryan Stevenson threw the SPL title race wide open with a goal 13 minutes from time to take all 3 points from champions Rangers at Tynecastle.

In what was an enthralling game of football, Rangers could not make their dominance count in the first hour and the home side took advantage of their one clear-cut attempt on goal late in the match.

© Guardian

Walter Smith resisted temptation and left Nikica Jelavic on the bench and brought Maurice Edu back into the middle of the park. James Beattie was dropped for Naismith and the Gers went for a solid 4-5-1 formation with Lafferty spear-heading the attack. The challengers, Hearts, were the in-form team before kick-off and had to do without Kevin Kyle who missed out this afternoon.

It was a frantic start to the game with Rangers opting for a high pressing game in midfield. Jamie Ness and Maurice Edu were the best performers of the half and they were allowed to support Lafferty with McCulloch holding. Lafferty fired in a low strike in the opening minute which forced a fine save from Kello who would go on to have a magnificent game. The Northern Irish international striker had another good shot saved by the Slovakian keeper and he was able to thwart Naismith with a fine stop from close range.

The impressive 19-year-old Jamie Ness was having another outstanding performance in a Rangers shirt and came close on two occasions to breaking the deadlock. Firstly, he riggled his way through the Hearts defence and had his shot well saved at the near post by Kello. Just a minute later, he nipped in to intercept a pass and then rattled a superb 20-yard effort with his left-foot that flew just over the top.

January 20, 2011

© Rangers Football Club

Our very own Nikica Jelavic.

Great to have him back.

Jelavic made his return to first-team action in the second half of Tuesday's 1-0 win over Inverness Caley and forged an excellent partnership with John Fleck in attack. The Croatian International's class was clear for all to see in the 31 minutes he spent on the pitch and gave the Caley defenders a torrid time.

I was a bit of a 'Daniel Cousin fanboy' at times when he was at Ibrox. He was a terrific footballer on his day and had pretty much the full package: pace, strength and an eye for goal.

However, Jelavic is on another planet for me.

Jelavic has the pace, strength, great touch, movement and an eye for goal. But he has an excellent attitude and desire for the game. It seems to be a part of the 'Balkan genes' as most of them seem to treat every game like it is their last - excluding Dragan Mladenovic!

January 15, 2011

Vladimir Weiss produced another fantastic individual performance as Rangers romped to a 4-0 win over the helpless Hamilton Accies at Ibrox this afternoon.

The Slovakian winger got his name on the scoresheet twice with the first coming after a fine right-foot shot from long-range and the second from a free-kick which bobbled its way through the ruck of players and into the net despite the best efforts of Kenny Miller to get on the end of it.

Weiss' direct running had Hamilton players falling around the talented winger and he also won the penalty which Steven Whittaker converted.

© BBC Sport

After an abysmal performance in the Old Firm clash, Weiss and Rangers had to up the pace heading into a crucial month of fixtures. Weiss told the official Rangers website: "Today was another good game for me, but I don't really mind if I play well or not as long as I can help the team to get the points we need. The chat I had with the manager three weeks ago really helped me and since then I've tried to start every game well from the first whistle.

"As a team we started well from the first minute. Everyone looked sharp and from the first second we looked like we were going to win the game."

"The first goal didn't come until the 25th minute but we had the game under control and the team performance was brilliant."

"We have to take the positive things from that and continue these good performances."

January 7, 2011

The BBC website is today carrying a story that prospective owner Craig Whyte is hopeful of taking over the club in January. Journalist Alasdair Lamont has published a story this afternoon that contains no quotes, but is strong in it's belief that Whyte has said he is aiming to takeover the club sometime in January - probably towards the end of the month now. Crucially, this end of month deadline would mean that Smith could potentially be given funds from new ownership to utilise in the transfer window.

The article on the BBC site, said the following, "Craig Whyte remains hopeful of concluding his proposed takeover of Rangers before the end of January. Whyte has been in negotiations with the current owner Sir David Murray since the middle of November."

"He had initially hoped to complete a £33m deal before Christmas, but due diligence has taken longer than the Scottish businessman expected. However, if that can be concluded soon, Whyte aims to take over in time to help Walter Smith strengthen his squad."

January 6, 2011

Rangers could have a massive boost ahead of a busy next few weeks with Nikica Jelavic, Maurice Edu and Steven Naismith set to return to first-team action.

Jelavic has been sorely missed in the Rangers first-team after picking up an ankle ligament injury in the 2-1 win over Hearts following a nasty challenge from Ian Black. Jelavic has been in Croatia over the festive period and will return this week to step-up his preparation to return to the squad.

Smith told RangersTV: "Nikica has been back in Croatia training at the national centre in Zagreb and doing very well. We will see how he is in terms of his overall fitness and I would hope he wouldn't be too far away from playing."

He added: "I would think it would be the middle of the month but we will just have to wait and see.

© Daily Record

January 4, 2011

It would appear after Sunday's rank rotten performance that Allan McGregor is now appearing as some sort of scapegoat amongst certain sections of the Rangers supporters.

Fair enough, criticism should head McGregor's way following the dreadful error but the over-reactions to cash-in on him are just over the top.

For the past 3 or 4 years, McGregor has been a valuable part of the Rangers squad. This season, in particular, he was pulled off some fantastic saves and, to an extent, has kept us competing for the League Championship. So many crucial saves at crucial times when far too many of his team-mates have been under-performing.

January 2, 2011

I'm still finding it difficult to stomach Sunday's defeat to Celtic so there probably won't be a direct match report for a few days. However, one shining light from a dismal day at Ibrox was the performance of midfielder Jamie Ness.

Tossed into the deep-end by Walter Smith, the youngster put in a very polished performance and showed huge potential that up-staged our more experienced players. Ness made magnificent passes into the channels early in the game and also showed that he was prepared to roll his sleeves up and get stuck in. At times in the second-half, he was chasing box-to-box as we committed men forward.

© SNS Group