Match report as Rangers beat Ross County 1-0 in Dingwall; John Lundstram fired in the only goal in the 35th minute; Gers keeper Jon McLaughlin pulled off a big save to deny George Harmon before winner
John Lundstram’s first-half strike kept Rangers’ faint Scottish Premiership title hopes alive as they beat Ross County 1-0 in Dingwall.
The midfielder’s powerful shot made it three wins for new boss Michael Beale in just eight days after stand-in goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin pulled off a big save when the game was goalless.
The Ibrox stopper got a touch to stop George Harmon from opening the scoring as County looked for their first victory over Rangers in 18 attempts.
With the goal gaping, Rabbi Matondo passed up the chance to double the lead deep into injury time before Ross Callaghan fired wide for County.
The result cuts Celtic’s lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership to six points ahead of their match at home to St Johnstone on Saturday.
Ross County are back in the relegation zone after Kilmarnock drew 2-2 at Motherwell.
How Rangers maintained Beale’s winning start
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Rangers had been forced to do without goalkeeper Allan McGregor through illness and Scott Arfield earned a start after the midfielder’s double against Aberdeen on Tuesday night as Beale made four changes during a busy festive schedule.
Alfredo Morelos was dropped to the bench as Fashion Sakala was handed the central striking role, but the first clear-cut chance of the game came for the home side in the 19th minute and they should have scored.
Jordan Tillson’s looping cross from the right to the back post found Harmon but his header from four yards was blocked by the quick reactions of McLaughlin.
Moments later, the Ibrox defence was again breached and this time Owura Edwards sent a shot wide from a tight angle.
It was all a bit of a struggle for the Govan side before a moment of quality from Lundstram broke the deadlock.
Striker Sakala squared the ball to the midfielder who, from 20 yards, had time and space to send a well-struck left-footed drive low past County goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw.
Rangers were no more fluid or cohesive at the start of the second half although it took a good save from Laidlaw in the 54th minute to foil Sakala, who was set up by young full-back Adam Devine.
It was the last notable action from Sakala before he was replaced by Morelos, who soon had an effort on goal fly wide.
Jack and Rabbi Matondo took over from Arfield and Malik Tillman and Rangers continued to boss possession but the second goal did not appear imminent.
The visitors had the chance to settle it in added time only for Laidlaw to deny Matondo in a one-on-one battle but the points remained Ibrox-bound.
Beale: Another big win
Rangers manager Michael Beale told Sky Sports his players are improving with every game:
“It was comfortable for the most part. We kept Jon quiet, he made one big save early in the game. We were comfortable without being clinical, is the nice way to put it. We were tired, it was a long week with two travel.
“I’m just happy to get down the road with three points. I think important for the group is the clean sheet.
“Some of the domination in having possession was quite good. I think we didn’t realise that we could run behind, that was an area where we can improve.
“We got Adam (Devine) in some good areas, especially in the first half. And in the second half, we had three or four moments where we were four vs three or three vs two and we need to execute.
“We know we are a work in progress. We know the most important thing to do is keep winning. As long as we keep winning, you will see people coming back.
“We’ve won a big game at Pittodrie and we’ve won here again, so these games are here to challenge us in a challenging time of the year with the travel.
“Sometimes we need to get the three points, get out of here and keep moving forwards to Motherwell on the 28th.”
Mackay: We need to be more clinical
Malky Mackay told Sky Sports he was disappointed his side did not take their chances:
“I’m desperately disappointed for my lads to be honest with you.
“We knew we had to come and take a forward step, we didn’t want to sit in deep. We didn’t think this was how it was going to play out in terms of not having any chance to go and affect the game. We didn’t.
“First half we were terrific, had two great chances and Rangers scored a good goal. We pressed them high in good areas.
“Delighted with the effort and the energy. It’s just that clinicalness against a good team. We have two that we don’t score.
“It was going to be a tough win for us, but on the break we caused them problems. That little extra bit of quality just cost us.”