Shock Ross County win delivers Rangers title blow

Ross County's Josh Sims (left) and Simon Murray celebrate

Ross County came from behind to secure their first victory over Rangers in their history and deliver a damaging blow to the visitors’ Scottish Premiership title hopes.

Rangers’ first away defeat in eight games since losing at Celtic Park in December leaves Phillippe Clement’s side four adrift at the top as the race for silverware shifts significantly the way of the reigning champions.

There were signs that County sensed history could be made despite Rangers emerging from a nervy first half ahead thanks to Jack Baldwin’s own goal.

Strikes on the rebound from Simon Murray and George Harmon turned the game on its head before Josh Sims’ close-range finish left the visitors looking lost for ideas despite James Tavernier’s late penalty reply.

Second-bottom County held on for one of their most famous victories to narrow the gap with St Johnstone to one point in a major fillip to their hopes of avoiding a relegation play-off.

Both sides had made a host of changes, County looking to recover from two away defeats and Rangers desperate to get back to winning ways after their Old Firm derby draw.

The latter, combined with Celtic’s Saturday win over St Mirren, meant there was no room for slip-ups in the title run for Clement’s side and it looked like the pressure was beginning to weigh heavily.

Within seconds of kick-off, Michee Efete’s cross to back post found fellow wing-back Harmon racing into the six-yard box at the back post, but the Englishman could only find the roof of the net under pressure from Abdallah Sima.

With Rangers’ defence exchanging worried glances, the visitors edged ahead out of the blue when Baldwin’s attempt to clear a corner evaded goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw at his far post.

Saves from Butland and Laidlaw, plus wild finishes from Harmon and Rangers striker Cyriel Dessers, kept the scores level as action raced from end-to-end before half time.

The chances continued to flow after the break and, when Murray’s first effort was blocked by the foot of Butland, the striker found the far corner with his second attempt.

Murray then turned provider as Butland could only parry his curling drive into the path of Harmon to score.

The Light Blues were left exposed as they pressed desperately for an equaliser and, on the break, Eli King found Sims to fire home.

Rangers were handed a lifeline when the ball struck Brendan Khela’s hand, but despite Tavernier’s 50th successful Premiership penalty, the Glasgow side could not make the most of eight minutes of stoppage time to deny County their first win in 25 meetings between the sides.

Player of the match – Simon Murray (Ross County)

Ross County's Simon Murray scores

County make Rangers look short of title quality – analysis

County went into the game having only won once in six outings, but they remain unbeaten in their latest five home games and you could see why.

They were not daunted by the stature of the visitors and their record against them, taking the game to a side displaying a frailty that belied their status as title contenders.

Cowie’s changes to his starting line-up worked to perfection, with Harmon, Sims and Yan Dhanda in particular injecting a pace and sharpness that had the visiting defence looking well off the pace and Laidlaw in inspired form in goal.

More displays like this and County are certainly capable of avoiding a relegation play-off.

More performances like this, when they squandered the first of two games in hand, and Rangers hopes of catching a Celtic side who, as manager Brendan Rodgers mentioned on Saturday, come alive in the title run-in will quickly disappear.

They looked disjointed, error strewn, all too easily penetrated at the back and lacking a killer touch up front – hardly the characteristics of a title-winning team.

Meanwhile, Clement may now regret his decision to rotate his squad to give game time to some players who failed to live up to the big occasion and they will now likely have to win at Celtic Park in the final derby of the season if they are to keep their title dream alive.

More to follow.

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Ross County

Starting XI

  1. Squad number1Player nameLaidlaw

    Average rating

    8.40

  2. Squad number2Player nameRandall

    Average rating

    8.03

  3. Squad number5Player nameBaldwin

    Average rating

    8.62

  4. Squad number42Player nameLeak

    Average rating

    8.84

  5. Squad number16Player nameHarmon

    Average rating

    8.76

  6. Squad number24Player nameEfete

    Average rating

    8.50

  7. Squad number10Player nameDhanda

    Average rating

    8.99

  8. Squad number18Player nameKing

    Average rating

    9.06

  9. Squad number14Player nameLoturi

    Average rating

    8.88

  10. Squad number11Player nameSims

    Average rating

    9.03

  11. Squad number15Player nameMurray

    Average rating

    9.33

Substitutes

  1. Squad number4Player nameBrown

    Average rating

    8.79

  2. Squad number12Player nameSheaf

    Average rating

    8.80

  3. Squad number19Player nameKhela

    Average rating

    8.77

  4. Squad number26Player nameWhite

    Average rating

    8.81

Rangers

Starting XI

  1. Squad number1Player nameButland

    Average rating

    4.16

  2. Squad number2Player nameTavernier

    Average rating

    3.32

  3. Squad number6Player nameGoldson

    Average rating

    2.79

  4. Squad number5Player nameSouttar

    Average rating

    3.29

  5. Squad number31Player nameBarisic

    Average rating

    2.78

  6. Squad number20Player nameDowell

    Average rating

    3.07

  7. Squad number4Player nameLundstram

    Average rating

    3.11

  8. Squad number19Player nameSima

    Average rating

    3.51

  9. Squad number13Player nameCantwell

    Average rating

    3.68

  10. Squad number7Player nameFábio Silva

    Average rating

    2.87

  11. Squad number9Player nameDessers

    Average rating

    2.97

Substitutes

  1. Squad number11Player nameLawrence

    Average rating

    2.36

  2. Squad number17Player nameMatondo

    Average rating

    2.34

  3. Squad number21Player nameSterling

    Average rating

    2.59

  4. Squad number25Player nameRoofe

    Average rating

    2.33

Line-ups

Ross County

Formation 4-5-1

  • 1Laidlaw
  • 2Randall
  • 5BaldwinBooked at 40mins
  • 42Leak
  • 16Harmon
  • 24EfeteBooked at 54minsSubstituted forBrownat 79′minutes
  • 10DhandaSubstituted forKhelaat 84′minutes
  • 18King
  • 14LoturiBooked at 82mins
  • 11SimsSubstituted forWhiteat 84′minutes
  • 15MurraySubstituted forSheafat 90+1′minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Borthwick-Jackson
  • 4Brown
  • 12Sheaf
  • 17Henderson
  • 19Khela
  • 26White
  • 27Brophy
  • 28Ayina
  • 40Wickens

Rangers

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Butland
  • 2Tavernier
  • 6Goldson
  • 5Souttar
  • 31BarisicSubstituted forSterlingat 54′minutes
  • 20DowellSubstituted forLawrenceat 63′minutes
  • 4Lundstram
  • 19SimaBooked at 68mins
  • 13Cantwell
  • 7Fábio SilvaSubstituted forMatondoat 54′minutes
  • 9DessersSubstituted forRoofeat 73′minutes

Substitutes

  • 11Lawrence
  • 17Matondo
  • 21Sterling
  • 25Roofe
  • 27Balogun
  • 28McCrorie
  • 38King
  • 43Raskin
  • 45McCausland

Referee:
Matthew MacDermid

Attendance:
4,341

Match Stats

Live Text

Post update

Match ends, Ross County 3, Rangers 2.