Well, I have just about come off cloud nine. Yesterday in a pulsating Old Firm match at Ibrox, Rangers came from behind to defeat their great rivals Celtic 4-2.
Rangers were thoroughly deserving of their victory, as they performed as well in any Old Firm match for years with a vigorous and exciting second half display.
The game had threatened to be overshadowed by many off field factors, such as the Daily Record’s inflammatory headline about Neil Lennon on the eve of the game, plus the continued reference to the incident between Rangers manager Ally McCoist and Lennon back in March.
However, as the game got under way, it was clear that there was only going to be one thing that mattered – the football.
With the match running at it’s usual frenetic pace, barely pausing for a breath, both teams failed to cut clear chances in the opening period, with goalkeepers Allan McGregor and Fraser Forster having little to do.
On the 23rd minute the game sprung into life, when Kelvin Wilson failed to clear, passing straight to Steven Naismith, who finally broke his derby day duck, rifling a brilliant shot by Forster.
The lead only lasted 10 minutes, as Rangers let Celtic come back into the game. Scott Brown, who had a very good first half, played a defence-splitting pass into the path of Gary Hooper, who slotted coolly by McGregor.
Worse was to follow for the Rangers keeper seven minutes later though. Once again Rangers were slow to close down and Badr El-Kaddouri thought he would have a shot from 20 yards out. I simply couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the Moroccan’s tame effort had gone through the legs of McGregor.
This meant McCoist had to give a huge half-time battle cry in his first derby as manager. In the stand at half-time, I was praying with others that he and the players would come out reinvigorated.
My prayers were delivered. Only minutes into the second half, a Steven Davis strike that hit the bar. Then Kyle Lafferty had the ball in the net four minutes later, but the goal was wrongly disallowed for offside.
Nikica Jelavic was the man to finally draw Rangers level, rising above everyone from Steve Davis’ corner and finding the roof of the net.
Rangers were hitting top gear now with their high tempo returning. But they were almost made to pay when Glenn Loovens saw a header hit the post, as Celtic threatened to go in front once more.
That was the turning point for me in the match, as Rangers soon launched another attack and Lafferty, fantastic all afternoon, finally got his reward with a goal to put the home side in the lead.
Celtic looked lost for large parts of the second half and were reduced to ten men when Charlie Mulgrew hacked down Steven Davis and was shown a second yellow card by referee Craig Thomson.
Surprisingly Rangers seemed to sit back against their ten men opponents rather than trying to kill the game off. Despite a few hairy moments, Celtic never looked like equalising and in injury time Naismith grabbed a second to put
the icing on the cake for Rangers.
This was a very important win for Rangers and McCoist as a manager. His players second half performance showed that they believe in his methods and his passion for the club is almost unrivalled. Although there is still a long, long way to go in the season, Rangers have a nice little four gap already over their bitter rivals and long may this continue.