Wednesday, September 26, 2012

League Cup: Rangers v Motherwell

Order returned to the Scottish Communities League Cup last night with six SPL clubs beating lower league opposition.

Not a cakewalk for them all - Inverness needed penalties to get past Stenhousemuir, St Mirren waited until stoppage time to get the winner against Hamilton - and their efforts appear to have been met with a wave of apathy.

Apparently you could fit the combined attendance for the six games into Celtic Park and still have 30,000 empty seats.

Say what you like about the league cup but it's consistent. Every year the same:

A round where a few upsets are taken to prove the theory that there is so little to choose between the leagues that the SPL should be dramatically expanded forthwith.

A round where pitifully low attendances are taken to prove the theory that the competition has run its course and should continue only after extreme surgery.

Quite comforting in its own way.

Combining the two, reworking the league cup as part of the (hopefully) impending reworking of the league structure, might be a good place to start.

But those are questions for another day, to be chewed over by the great and good of the Scottish game.

In the meantime we can enjoy another fun game of cross-division "my attendance is bigger than yours" as Rangers host Motherwell at Ibrox.

When the dust settled after the summer's soul searching it always seemed likely that Rangers would face SPL opposition at some point this season.

The league cup draw was kind enough to throw up this peculiar spectacle relatively early.

The last time Rangers and Motherwell met in this competition Rangers won a 2010/11 semi final 2-1 en route to the trophy.

Less than two years later Motherwell sit top of the SPL - a Champions League qualifying appearance behind them - and Rangers lie second in the Third Division.

At times I think we're maybe too close to recent events, too drained by the tedium of the ever decreasing circles of vitriol and conspiracy theorising that surrounds it, to properly appreciate how spectacularly the game has been turned on its head.

All of which adds another level of intrigue to tonight's game.

It's hard to imagine any other set of circumstance that would see a team that hasn't won away from home in the fourth tier enter a game against a side unbeaten in the top flight as favourites.

But there we have it. Rangers are 6/4 to win. Motherwell are 7/4 to win.

This is Scottish football and normality has been suspended for the duration.

For all that their away form has been laboured, Rangers have scored 17 goals in five home games.

But there's only one clean sheet in that run and they were shunted out of the Challenge Cup by Queen of the South.

Motherwell will be their biggest test so far. And I'm still struggling to see how this one will go.

If Ally McCoist can't motivate his players tonight then his position deserves to be questioned.

And Motherwell's record against Rangers can't be ignored. The last time they won at Ibrox Tony Blair had only been Prime Minister for four days. He wasn't even bathing in creosote back then.

A tricky one.

Rangers to start strongly, maybe nick a lead and Motherwell to eventually prevail? A half-time/full-time home/away combo at 20-1 looks generous.

In a game that would seem to promise goals you can get the same price for either side to win 3-2.

I fancy it will be close and Motherwell might just nick it. I'd not be shocked if they don't though.

Elsewhere this evening Aberdeen travel to Dunfermline as favourites - a label they've not always worn comfortably against lower league opposition.

Dunfermline manager Jim Jefferies has apparently promised to "have a right good go."

In seven games this season his side have lost only one, scored 18 and conceded just three goals. They look equipped for the job of right good going.

Aberdeen have beaten only St Johnstone in the SPL and required extra time to get past Morton in the last round.

I feel I should be more confident about Dunfermline's chances of pulling this off than I am.

Ladbrokes Game On!Perhaps I'm being persuaded by Aberdeen's resilience in saving a last gasp point in their 3-3 draw with Motherwell at the weekend.

A nice simple 2-0 win for the SPL side? 9/1.

Tempting. But would a lower league shock actually shock me? 2-1 to Dunfermline? 10/1.

I might just settle for a Motherwell - Dunfermline double at 8.80/1.

It's going to be an interesting night.

All odds from Ladbrokes

Always remembering www.gambleaware.co.uk