John Lundstram’s first-half strike gave Rangers a 1-0 Scottish Premiership win over Ross County, but it was far from brilliant from Michael Beale.
After two thrilling 3-2 comeback wins over Hibernian and Aberdeen respectively in Beale’s first two games as new Rangers manager, it was a less eventful game at Dingwall.
Midfielder Lundstram scored what proved to be the 35th-minute winner of a mediocre performance that made it three out of three wins for the former Rangers assistant manager, who will be happy with the clean sheet if not the general display.
Rangers are within six points of leaders Celtic – who host St Johnstone on Saturday – but Beale will have reminded there is a lot of work to do if they are to prevent rivals Old Firm from retaining the title.
1 goalkeeper Allan McGregor was out through illness, replaced by Jon McLaughlin, while James Sands, Ryan Jack and Alfredo Morelos were benched. Ben Davies, Scott Arfield and Lundstram entered the starting lineup.
County, with Connor Randall, captain Keith Watson and David Cancola back in the side – Jack Baldwin was suspended following his weekend red card against St Johnstone – worked hard to stifle the visitors from the start.
Rangers, Lundstram initially folding in between Connor Goldson and Davies to start attacking, took control of possession but struggled to penetrate.
The first clear chance of the game came for the hosts in the 19th minute and they should have scored. Jordan Tillson’s looping cross from the right to the back post found George Harmon but his four-yard header was blocked by McLaughlin’s quick reactions.
Moments later, the visiting defense was breached again and this time Owura Edwards sent a shot wide from a tight angle.
However, a quality moment from Lundstram broke the deadlock and ultimately proved decisive. Rangers’ Zambian striker Fashion Sakala sent the ball past the midfielder who had time and space from 20 yards out to send a well-crafted left-footed shot low from Ross Laidlaw into the home goal.
Rangers were no longer smooth or consistent early in the second half, although it took a good save from Laidlaw in the 54th minute to thwart Sakala, who was set up by young full-back Adam Devine. It was Sakala’s last noteworthy move before he was replaced by Morelos, who quickly put in a wide goal effort.
Jack and Rabbi Matondo took over from Arfield and Malik Tillman and Rangers continued to dominate possession but a second goal did not seem imminent. The visitors finally had a chance to settle the matter in extra time only for Laidlaw to counter Matondo in a one-on-one battle. However, the points remained tied to Ibrox.