New Livingston manager Mark Burchill conceded his players must learn to take their chances if they are to give themselves a fighting chance of remaining in the Championship.
The Lions succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at Ibrox on Saturday in what was Burchill’s first match in the hotseat after John McGlynn’s departure last Tuesday. His team are now five points adrift of second-bottom Alloa, who were defeated by the same scoreline at Tynecastle.
It was a far from convincing display from the Glasgow giants in what proved to be Ally McCoist’s last game in charge as Livi threatened Steve ~Simonsen’s goal on more than one occasion and, at times, threatened to snatch at least a point for their endeavours.
However, an early Fraser Aird strike and a Simon Mensing own goal 15 minutes from time condemned the West Lothian outfit to their 11th defeat of the campaign – their disappointment enhanced with the news that fellow strugglers Cowdenbeath had pulled off a shock win away to Queen of the South.
“If you come to Ibrox and create the chances that we did, you’re hoping that you can take one,” Burchill said. “I said to the lads the attitude, the application, the game-plan, I thought they followed it perfectly. But it was the goal that was missing.
“It [not scoring] has been our downfall at times this season and that’s something we need to try and rectify very quickly. But as I said I’m very encouraged by what I saw. When you come to Ibrox and the players are really angry in the dressing room after that they never got something out the game then that tells you everything you need to know.
“Simonsen’s save in the first couple of minutes was world class, it was a fantastic save and then he saves one at the end where Simon Mensing hits the post. I believe with that determination and application then we’ll stay in the division.
“Obviously I’m bitterly disappointed to lose the game as I’m a winner and I don’t want to lose any football matches, regardless of who we’re playing against. Rangers got the breaks as I felt we were on top just before the second goal.”
Simonsen’s save that Burchill alluded to came as early as the second minute, the Englishman expertly diving to his left to keep out Danny Mullen’s net-bound shot from 12 yards.
But Fraser Aird’s drive eight minutes later into Darren Jamieson’s bottom right-hand corner had the hosts in the ascendency. The visitors, though, looked dangerous on the break but too often surrendered possession after working the ball into a shooting position. If Simonsen had produced heroics to deny Mullen early on then the Rangers No.1 looked rather suspect as he allowed a Kyle Jacobs effort to squirm away from his body before atoning for his error just ahead of the hovering Jordan White. Former Stirling Albion striker White should have levelled things up five minutes before the interval when a Keaghan Jacobs corner was headed back across goal by brother Kyle, but from six yards out White could only find the fingertips of a stretched Simonsen with the goal at his mercy.
Rangers’ inability to kill Livi off was causing some concern around a sparsely-populated Ibrox, Jamieson palming away a Nicky Law effort before Lee Wallace passed up a great opportunity from just inside the Lions’ penalty area.
However, the sucker punch came on 74 minutes when the ball was headed into his own net by Mensing from an Aird cross, with Jamieson off his line. Despite this setback, Burchill’s men continued to press and Keaghan Jacobs seemed destined to set up a nervy ending from only a couple of yards out but his goal-bound shot was expertly blocked by a lunging Dean Shiels. And, from the resulting corner, Declan Gallagher met the ball at the back post before the ball ricocheted to Mensing whose effort came back off the upright much to the dismay of the Livi captain.
Asked about the proposition of welcoming league leaders and local rivals Hearts to the Energy Assets Arena on Saturday, Burchill said: “They are a good team but someone at some point is going to beat them and why can it not be Livingston on Saturday?”
Rangers: Simonsen, Wallace, McGregor, Black (Shiels 81), Law, McCulloch, Foster, Miller (Boyd 73), Smith (Templeton 73), Aird, Clark. Subs: Robinson, Mohsni, Daly, Faure.
Livingston: Jamieson, Mensing, Fordyce, Kyle Jacobs (Praprotnik 82), Keaghan Jacobs, O’Brien, Gallagher, White, Glen (Hippolyte 74), Mullen (McKenna 83), Rutherford. Subs: Grant, Sives, Ogleby, Beaumont.
Referee: Willie Collum