Rangers yesterday blew the chance to erode Celtic's huge lead in the SPL when they crashed to defeat at Falkirk in atrocious conditions that were only partly to blame. Lacking shape, invention and sharpness, they succumbed to hosts who had all three and who thoroughly deserved Marc Twaddle's first-half goal and the three points it earned.
All Falkirk wins over Rangers are famous: they arrive once every few decades and among the most recent was a 3-1 victory on New Year's Day 1971, when a certain Alex Ferguson was playing for Falkirk. Like Ferguson then, Twaddle is also a Rangers reject.
One suspects Paul Le Guen still has much to do before he feels comfortable with his squad. The usually reliable Brahmin Hemdani is not among the most obvious candidates for the chop, but one extremely sloppy back-pass summed up the afternoon. It took a comic dash by his goalkeeper, Allan McGregor, to clear it off the line.
Of the whole team performance, Le Guen admitted: "I expected better. I was disappointed. We lacked efficiency. We lacked composure."
The defeat, combined with events elsewhere over the weekend, leaves Celtic, who beat Aberdeen 1-0 on Saturday, 16 points clear at the top of the SPL. The next five clubs are separated by just four points, and are in various shades of turmoil.
Rangers' is not as chronic as that of Heart of Midlothian, who drew 2-2 at St Mirren on Saturday and have not won since 1 October. To make matters worse, their captain Steven Pressley's dispute with the club's management has got worse. Rumours coming from Tynecastle suggest he may have played his last game.
Hibernian look likely to be the top Edinburgh club this season, but even they have worries because two of their key players, Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson, are agitating to leave.
Falkirk have their own "will he/won't he stay?" saga, surrounding Anthony Stokes, the 18-year-old Irish striker on loan from Arsenal whose 13 goals this season make him the SPL's leading scorer. He did not feature yesterday because he is suspended. Falkirk have yet to discover whether they will be able to keep him beyond January.
On this evidence, they have plenty of other talent. The brightest star yesterday was Trinidad & Tobago's Russell Latapy, 38, who was magic in a maelstrom. The cloud was so dark and thick at kick-off at 2pm that it felt like nightfall. Swirling, icy rain bit the face, and the temperature felt Siberian. But Latapy never stopped moving or creating. He took the corner in the 26th minute from which Twaddle's downward header bounced past both Allan McGregor and Jeremy Clement, who both touched it.
Goals: Twaddle (26) 1-0.
Falkirk (4-3-1-2): Lambers; Ross, Barr, Milne, Twaddle; Lima, Cregg, Craig; Latapy; Gow, Stewart (Dodd, 84). Substitutes not used: Higgins (gk), Scobbie, McStay, Uras, Stewart, McManus.
Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Hutton, Svensson, Hemdani, Papac (Buffel, 59); Novo, Ferguson, Clement, Adam; Boyd (Sebo, 45), Prso (Sionko, 84). Substitutes not used: Klos (gk), Rae, Smith, Lowing.
Referee: S Dougal.
Booked: Falkirk Barr; Rangers Novo, Adam.
Man of the match: Latapy.
Attendance: 7,245.Reuse content