Five things we learnt from Hibernian v Rangers

Rangers Gates

Rangers progressed to the play-off final with a 1-0 loss at Easter Road, with plenty of talking points emerging from the game.

Rangers progressed to the play-off final, with a two-legged tie against Motherwell awaiting them from next week.

Stuart McCall’s decision to change formation along with bringing back Rangers captain Lee McCulloch, were only two of the talking points to emerge, along with the issue of fatigue versus match sharpness.

Jason Cummings’s late goal wasn’t enough to inspire a late comeback from the Hibees, who will spend next season in the Scottish Championship.

Bringing Lee McCulloch back proved to be a good move

Bringing Lee McCulloch back into the side won't have been a popular decision with certain sections of the Rangers support, given his poor performances and recent injury that caused him to be left out of the side.

After a shaky start that led to an opportunity, McCulloch atoned for his mistake by clearing the danger from the resulting cross in the 11th minute. Apart from that early involvement, McCulloch went quietly and efficiently about his business on a successful return to the starting eleven.

McCall made the right decision to sit back

The decision to go with three at the back was understandable given the success that approach had the last time Rangers visited Easter Road, but with the Gers allowing themselves to be put under so much pressure early on, it was essentially a back five for the first 25 minutes and closing stages of the game

Rangers were able to come away unscathed from a very intense opening from Hibs, with last ditch clearances and a slight touch from Cammy Bell vital in preventing any goals before the counter-attack offered Kenny Miller the first Light Blues sight of goal in the 24th minute.

After withstanding the early pressure, the Gers looked comfortable with everything Hibs threw at them, with the number of men in blue shirts making it difficult for Hibs to find space in the final third.

Tiredness v match sharpness

Hibernian’s high-tempo approach at the beginning looked as though it would take its toll on the Rangers players, but some counter-attacks near the end of the half allowed them to have a breather.

Although it was a hot topic going into the game, the Gers didn’t appear to be affected by fatigue  heading into the closing stages of the game, with Hibernian’s lack of match sharpness perhaps the more telling factor across the fixture.

 Hibs failing to take their chances

It was obvious that Alan Stubbs’ side were going to go in search of an early goal, given that they needed to score at least two, and the chances were there to close the deficit quickly.

The Hibees had eight attempts saved or blocked in the first-half and were unlucky when playing the ball across the box, with a Rangers player usually providing a chance-preventing touch to clear the danger.

If Hibs had managed to nick an early goal then they had the intensity of a team that could have scored two or three more, but ultimately they were made to pay for their wastefulness early on and their lack of clear-cut chances.

Cummings' late goal was too little, too late in the 94th minute as Hibernian’s lack of cutting edge proved costly.

Rangers finally showing some steel

McCall spoke in the build-up to the game about his players always rising to the big occasions, and he was proved correct once again.

Rangers put in another solid defensive performance –much unlike some of their recent offerings during the regular season – and operated well on the counter-attack.

They all played their roles as asked and were committed in the tackle; in short, they did what they needed to do, which is something they have struggled with of late.

The biggest challenge for Rangers will be to continue this run of form, but Saturday’s game and the play-offs overall have shown that they are capable of performing when it matters most.

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