Photo courtesy of Malcolm Mackenzie
Rangers under 20's were defeated 5-2 in the final of the Little Big Shot Scottish Youth Cup final at Hampden Park. Here is Michael Gaughan's analysis of the Gers’ performance.
Rangers went into the match on a high following a 4-0 win over Hamilton Academical in their last league game a week ago. The reigning champions were hoping to make it two in a row as they chased their second successive Scottish Cup win.
Arguably Rangers received an easier draw than their Old Firm rivals in their run to the final; the Ibrox youngsters overcame Spartans 4-0 in the third round; followed by a 0-2 victory over Queen of the South and penalty shootout win over Perth side St Johnstone; the semi-final was played at Ibrox where the Gers dominated the match despite only beating Ayr United 1-0.
However, before the match, goalkeeper Liam Kelly was quick to dispel the claims that Rangers received an easier draw and was keen to retain the trophy: “We’ve had hard ties against teams who always up their game when they play Rangers, so we’ve done well to get to the final and hopefully we can retain the trophy.”
It should also be noted that the match was played behind closed doors, Kelly was adamant that this did not make a difference to their approach: “It doesn’t matter if there are 20,000 people there or no one there, we’ll still prepare for it in the same way and hopefully we all turn up on the night and help each other out to win the trophy.”
Many who were at the match would put forward the argument that Rangers were the better side in the opening exchanges; this could not be argued. The Gers set up with a 4-5-1 formation, they were looking to frustrate Celtic from the outset and be very hard to beat.
Celtic enjoy to keep possession and play short passing, this may have been their downfall in the early stages; Rangers’ high pressing put the Celtic defence under pressure and almost put the Gers into the lead as Jordan Hart failed to clear. Following Celtic’s first goal, Rangers instantly clawed one back – more pressing from the forward line forced a mistake from Calum Waters and the full back put the ball into his own net – giving Rangers the equaliser.
Rangers also seemed the more physical side; the Celtic defence were struggling to deal with long balls forward and Ryan Hardie was proving a handful, leading the attack for Rangers.
The fast start from Rangers obviously took a lot out of the players and Celtic began to find gaps between the midfield and defence; despite Rangers attempting to foil this tactic by playing a holding midfielder the Gers simply couldn’t deal with the slick movement of the Celtic forwards.
In the second half Rangers brought on Jamie Burrows in order to prevent Celtic finding space in the centre of the park – this did not work however. With Paul McMullan impressing for the Hoops Rangers were struggling to get settled at the back.
Rangers started to try and push forward as they had nothing to lose, this may have created more problems than intended though; both full backs Ryan Sinnamon and Jamie Mills began to push forward, creating even more space in the wide areas for Celtic to exploit – this was shown in the build-up to Celtic’s fourth goal.
A late glimpse of quality from the Gers did not win the match, but their second goal was of great class and showed what the young players are capable of; great work from Hardie and a fantastic finish from Dylan Dykes proved to be a consolation goal from Rangers, with muted celebrations from the players and fans.
Youth coach Ian Durrant was dejected at the end of the match: “I am more disappointed for the boys than I ever would be for myself; they are out there at Hampden playing against Celtic with their families watching.
“I think if you ask them man for a man I think they will say they let themselves down. I hope nerves maybe got the better of them but we never laid a glove on Celtic tonight and they well deserved winners.
“They have to pick themselves up, this is their job and they will be hurting rightly so and hopefully they will come back bigger and a stronger next year.”