Scott Arfield saves the heavyweight Rangers from an unwanted twist in the title race

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Rangers’ Scott Arfield celebrates his 75th minute win against Livingston at Ibrox. (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group)

The 33-year-old is now at the veteran stage of his career and is out of contract at the end of the season, but he is still more than capable of making valuable contributions, such as the 75th-minute game-winner he scored as substitute in the second half to finally break the resistance of a stubborn Livingston side.

Arfield’s breakthrough was met with a mix of joy and relief from both the home fans at Ibrox and manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst in the technical area. While it was a dominant display from Rangers on a rain-swept night in Govan, it was also heavy for extended periods.

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In the end, the win was indisputably deserved and it preserved Rangers’ four-point lead over Celtic at the top of the table.

As van Bronckhorst looks to guide his squad through a key phase of the title defence, the biggest bright spot was again the performance of midfielder Alex Lowry, who more than justified his inclusion in the starting line-up and was by far the brightest spark in a Rangers Showcase that was a far cry from firing flat out.

The 18-year-old’s composure in possession, his willingness to receive the ball in congested areas of the pitch and his clever footwork enabled him to maintain the momentum of his impressive debut off the bench against Stirling Albion last Friday.

It was Lowry who scored Rangers’ first goal, held comfortably by Max Stryjek, and he was eager to get involved at every opportunity as the most advanced of the hosts’ midfielders.

But the teenager did not receive as much creative support as van Bronckhorst would have hoped. In the absence of the injured Ianis Hagi, the suspended Ryan Kent and standout striker Alfredo Morelos due to international duty, others who intervened struggled to keep up.

Fashion Sakala saw the ball down the left a lot without doing anything particularly effective with it, although the Zambian international improved as the game went on, while Scott Wright was too peripheral a figure on the right.

Cedric Itten lacked conviction in his quest to assert himself in Livingston’s central defense and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Kemar Roofe shortly before the hour mark.

As a sense of frustration grew within the stadium, it was Arfield’s entry to replace the largely anonymous James Sands that proved pivotal.

Borna Barisic cleverly connected with Sakala down the left and the Croatian left-back’s cross was lobbed onto Stryjek’s wrong foot by Arfield.

Rangers (4-2-3-1): McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barisic; Kamara, Arenas (Arfield 59); Lowry, Wright (Jack 76), Sakala; Itten (Roof 59). Unused alternates: McLaughlin, Simpson, King, Lundstram, McCann, Barker.

Livingston (4-3-3): Stryjek, Devlin, Fitzwater, Obilee, Longridge (McMillan 76); Pittman, Holt, Omeonga; Bailey (Chukwuemeka 80), Anderson (Noble 65), Shinnie (Forrest 76). Unused alternates: Maley, Boyes, Lewis, Jacobs, Montano.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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