Saturday, 20 March 2010

A First Smell Of The Brasso

Sunday sees the staging of the 64th Scottish Football League Cup, or to give it the sponsors moniker – the Co-operative Insurance Cup Final.  In the Blue corner are Rangers, who have won this trophy a record 25 times and are making their 33rd final appearance.  In the Black and White corner are St Mirren, making their first appearance at this stage of the competition since 1956, when they lost to Aberdeen 2-1.

The difference in the fortunes of both teams are stark, and carry on into current form.  Rangers are currently the runaway leaders of the Scottish Premier league, and need a further 18 points to retain that championship.  They are in the quarter final of the Scottish Cup final, but have a tricky re-play to negotiate.  St Mirren are on something of a poor run, and could be a point off the bottom of the SPL come kick off on Sunday if results today do not go their way.  With the smell of fresh Brasso filling their nostrils, Rangers will be odds on favourites to win.

Yet, upsets do happen.  So what must St Mirren do to upset the applecart.  Firstly they should keep with the 3-5-2 formation which they have been playing since the semi-final win over Hearts.  This has, defensive errors notwithstanding, made them a more solid team.  It has also strangled the life out of teams playing 2 in the centre of mid-field.  Of course, Rangers might go for a 4-3-3 formation with Miller, Boyd and Novo up front, but Smith is perhaps a bit to conservative for that.  Secondly, Gus must start with Craig Dargo.  Dargo has pace, he can upset Rangers rearguard and before joining the Bud’s, Dargo had a reputation as a goal-getter.  The surprising thin about Rangers back line this season, considering how far ahead of Celtic they are is how slow their defenders are, and not just pace wise.  In the League game between the two in January, I was staggered at how many loose balls they did not pick up.  Dargo’s speed and quickness of thought might be able to pick up on these.

The other thing Gus might do is to play the loan player Graham Carey from the start.  When he has played, he has been deployed as a left wing-back and has been solid.  Where he has excelled is in his delivery from out wide.  His crossing has been excellent, and has the potential to cause mayhem in the Rangers Box.  If McPherson does not start with Carey, he should play Robb there.  With Robb, the problems would come from his running and committing other players to the tackle.

St Mirren had a better record than most teams in the SPL against Rangers, their 1-1 draw at Ibrox in the first season back in the SPL essentially saw Paul Le Guen off the Ibrox premises, while St Mirren won their last meeting at Love Street in October 2008.  They also drew their 5th Round Scottish cup tie last month before going down to a late late goal from Kris Boyd.  Rangers though have won every league meeting since then.  Rangers also won their last meeting at Hampden, Last seasons Scottish Cup Semi-Final (pictured).
However the stats don’t lie.  This is the cup trophy Rangers have a very impressive record with.  As the Scottish football blog points out, Rangers have only lost twice in finals to non old firm teams (Dundee in 1951/2 and Aberdeen in 1989/90).  Alas I suspect that Rangers will win and take the first step to an unlikely treble, by winning 2-1.

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