Rangers find pizzazz in on-song Fleck

Rangers 2 Dundee United 0
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The Independent Online

It's plain wrong. "We Will Rock You" on the bagpipes will never be an acceptable form of entertainment. Okay, so Rangers have to find the pizzazz from somewhere. They lack it so often on the pitch. That's why they were so eager to accept Wednesday's home friendly with David Beckham's Milan. But the Red Hot Chilli Pipers ahead of kick-off? Please.

The tartan-clad musicians were at Ibrox on Saturday as part of Scotland Day to mark the 250th anniversary of Rabbie Burns' birth. Why? Not because Rangers are such wee timorous beasties these days. Nor, to paraphrase the bard, because "the best laid title schemes o' mice an managers/ gang aft agley".

No. The celebrations were, according to the PR blurb, to "show everyone watching our supporters' loyalty to our country and bring everyone together in celebrating Glasgow Rangers' Scottish roots with a rousing atmosphere."

Ahem. "We Will Bore You" would have been a more appropriate tune for most of those in action with few exceptions, 17-year-old John Fleck again being one, and his fellow midfielder, Steven Davis, another. Fleck, in his third start in the SPL, secured his second man-of-the-match award for his industry, some delicate touches and for earning and scoring the penalty that nudged the hosts ahead. He also gave a glimpse of his instinctive talent with a cracking long-range shot, which was saved. Kyle Lafferty's goal late in added time made the score flattering.

We will hear more about Fleck, who will inevitably move to England, sooner rather than later if his development continues apace. Against United, the latest facet of his character on display was, as Davis put it "a lot of bottle" to take the penalty.

Davis added: "It was a very important match for us to win. He went down for the penalty and you could see he was very confident and he stroked it away very nicely. The key moment in the game was the penalty for us. You would expect him to get the ball and hand it over to one of the more senior players.

"But he grabbed it with both hands and said he definitely wanted it and he took it with a lot of confidence."

If, as a Rangers fan, you can leave aside the largely unattractive standard of fare, and revel in the result alone, this was a job done. And three points that looked a decent prize are even better this morning in light of what happened to Celtic.

Gordon Strachan's side went to bottom-placed Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with Terry Butcher in charge for his first game as Caley's manager, and left with a point after a 0-0 draw in which Georgios Samaras wasted several chances. Celtic would have expected to win and be four points clear. Instead they have a margin of superiority of two points ahead of their next SPL game, which happens to be a lunchtime Old Firm derby on 15 February when league action resumes after next weekend's Scottish Cup action.

The derbies have proved to be much tastier in recent meetings when the title race has been tight and with Celtic wobbling, the next one holds promise.

Rangers will be without Nacho Novo after the Spanish forward hobbled off with an ankle injury. And definitely be without the pipers. Thank goodness.

Goals: Fleck (77, pen) 1-0; Lafferty (90) 2-0.

Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Whittaker, Bougherra, Weir, Broadfoot; Davis, Ferguson, Mendes, Fleck; Novo (Miller, 43), Boyd (Lafferty, 74). Substitutes not used: Alexander (gk), Papac, McCulloch, Naismith, Niguez.

Dundee United (4-1-4-1): Zaluska; Kovacevic, Kenneth, Dods, Grainger; Buaben; Feeney, Robertson (Daly, 80), Gomis, Conway (Swanson, 57); Sandaza (Goodwillie, 70). Substitutes not used: McGovern (gk), Dillon, Shala, Dixon.

Referee: I Brines (Scotland).

Booked: Dundee United Grainger.

Man of the match: Fleck.

Attendance: 49,918.