Damon Gray’s 92nd minute equaliser rescued a point at a near-deserted Broadwood on Tuesday night, just when Rangers looked set to leave Cumbernauld empty-handed despite dominating the second half against the ten-man hosts.
The draw gives Ian Little’s never-say-die outfit four points from six on the road against testing opposition since their weather-enforced break, and the manager and supporters can be well satisfied with their team’s efforts. Had it not been for a lazy start to the match which saw Clyde establish a two goal lead with a mere 12 minutes on the clock, Rangers would have been enjoying maximum returns on their travels.
This being Valentine’s Day and all, Clyde gave free rein to their romantic side by offering free entry to the fairer sex. It’s fair to say that on a raw evening, not many took up the offer. It was their loss, because this was a cracking game of entertaining football.
Following Saturday’s superb victory over the league leaders, the manager was forced to replace one of his best performers, the suspended Stevie Notman, which meant a rare start for Richard Walker, assigned duty on the right side of midfield with Fraser McLaren moving to the left flank to accommodate him. Lee Currie made a welcome return in central midfield and went on to produce a majestic performance which merited man of the match.
Unfortunately for Rangers, all their good work against Alloa on Saturday started to unravel as early as the sixth minute, when Sweeney worked his way unmolested across the pitch to supply Gavin Brown, who skinned Thompson before battering an angled drive beyond Barclay. Currie slid a low twenty yarder a foot wide two minutes later as Rangers tried to force an early reply, but things went pear-shaped in the 12th minute when Rangers conceded a Sunday-league second. Sloss mishit a free kick from wide on the right hand touchline, but the ball managed to evade four Rangers defenders before being glanced past Barclay’s slow motion dive by John Neill. Clyde couldn’t believe their luck, and nor could Rangers.
Stuart Noble mounted a one-man campaign to haul Rangers back into the game, turning the home defence inside out in the 20th minute only for Damon Gray to shoot tamely at Crawford. Noble again broke free in the 24th minute, panicking McQueen into a sliced clearance which prompted an outburst of corners that Rangers failed to take advantage of, before Walker sent his diving header from Noble’s smart cross beyond Crawford to give Rangers a 29th minute foothold in a game that looked to be heading beyond them.
Gray should have given Rangers the lead 60 seconds later when he latched on to Noble’s lofted pass but Crawford managed to deflect his shot past the post, then Townsley’s back post header was hacked off the line by Oliver as Rangers turned the screw. The pressure on the home team cranked up another couple of notches a minute from the interval when Clyde’s Iain Gray hauled down Damon Gray as the latter broke through on goal and was shown a straight red card for his troubles.
Crawford made a brilliant diving save from Currie’s free kick.
The odds favoured Rangers but they started patiently, probing for an opening which duly arrived in the 56th minute. Gray crossed from the right to put Noble in for what looked like a certain equaliser until Crawford stole the ball off his toes for another superb save. Seven minutes later, and with the tension rising as the clock started to run down, Gray shot straight at Crawford from McLean’s lay off.
Little threw caution to the wind by replacing Thompson and the ineffective McLaren with Gribben and Deland, and that sparked new life into a Rangers side that created a litany of chances that they lacked the composure to finish.
Gribben’s stunning soft-shoe shuffle along the touchline in the 75th minute set up Gray for what looked like a routine tap-in but somehow Crawford got the ball clear, yet again.
Rangers were given a real scare nine minutes from time when Clyde sub Kane finished off a mazy run with a blistering 28 yard shot off Barclay’s bar, Deland blocking McDonald’s point blank shot from the rebound. Gribben caressed a corner off Crawford’s bar with five minutes left, but, just when it looked as if the Gers had run out of time, Noble broke through on the left and his low cross was nudged beyond the heroic Crawford and into the far corner by Gray for a rapturously received equaliser. Noble then had a dipping, swerving 22 yard effort that Crawford clung to gratefully before ref Aitken blew for time.
Rangers’ fighting spirit is not in doubt, but they need to stop giving the opposition a two goal lead. It would make a pleasant change for the boot to be on the other foot when Annan come visiting on Saturday.
Barclay 5, McLean 7, Townsley 7, McLeod 7, Thompson 6, Walker 5, Currie 9, Greenhill 6, McLaren 4, Noble 8, Gray 7.