Former Rangers defender Alan Hutton believes that the injury-enforced absence of Borna Barisic was a major factor in their damaging defeat on Wednesday night.
The Croatian went off injured in last week’s Scottish Cup win at Hamilton and duly missed the midweek Premiership visit to Kilmarnock, where a 2-1 defeat left the ‘Gers trailing Celtic by 10 points in the title race.
Andy Halliday started at left-back in the 27-year-old’s absence and Hutton believes that Barisic was a huge loss for Steven Gerrard’s side at Rugby Park. He told Football Insider: “He’s a massive loss. Over the last few weeks, we’ve actually seen how much [James] Tavernier was missed, if you like, because of his attacking, going forward, pushing teams back – it’s the same for Barisic. He really stepped up over the last few weeks when Tavernier was out. Everything was coming down the left hand side, all the good play. So for him to not be playing, it stuck out like a sore thumb.
“You know Halliday isn’t going to get forward and whip in balls into the box, especially with the quality that Barisic has, so it was a massive loss. I think Kilmarnock tried to play down that side, maybe knowing that Halliday isn’t the strongest defender. This is one of those things, you have to step up and take control of the situation, but I just think Rangers were left wanting.”
It’s easy to see why Hutton feels that Barisic’s absence affected Rangers so deeply on Wednesday night. The Croatian is the only natural left-back in Gerrard’s first team squad and is their leading assists provider with 14 for the season to date, while Halliday is a midfielder by trade who was asked to deputise at left-back on the night.
The 28-year-old was involved in Rangers’ goal at Rugby Park as his pass picked out Scott Arfield to open the scoring but that was his first assist of the season and, as noted by some reporters after the game, that moment was an exception to Halliday’s performance rather than the norm. James Black of Rangers News said that he “offers nowhere near enough going forward” while Ayush Chaurasia of The 4th Official felt that he “could have been better in terms of delivering crosses”. Glasgow Times reporter Graeme Macpherson went a step further in his critiquing of Halliday, who he said was “not as creative as the Croat and not always comfortable in his defensive duties”.
Has Steven Gerrard taken Rangers as far as he can?
That Barisic was rated “50/50” by Gerrard the day before the Kilmarnock game (as per @RangersFC on Twitter) would suggest that the Croatian’s injury may be a short-term one but, even if he is back in the team soon, his absence has already been costly after Wednesday night. Therefore, Hutton is quite right in saying that the 27-year-old is “a massive loss” to the Ibrox outfit.
Rangers fans, do you agree with Hutton’s verdict on Barisic? Just how badly was the left-back missed against Kilmarnock? Have your say by commenting below!
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