Rangers Reserves 2 vs. 0 Oxford United
Tuesday 21st July 2009, Kick-Off 12pm
Murray Park, Milngavie
I’ve went for a double header today and this one is the earliest kick-off I’ve attended either this season or last season. I’m out in Milngavie in plenty of time due to my train arriving about 20 minutes earlier than the Scotrail website suggested.
Murray Park is about a 20 minute walk from Milngavie train station, so with plenty of time to spare I wander round to Sandra’s Snacks van beside West of Scotland rugby club for a pre-match roll and sausage.
When I get to Murray Park I’m greeted by a club official. He directs me round to the far away astro turf pitch where today’s game is being played. Spectators are welcomed at Rangers’ £14M training facility for reserve matches but it still feels somehow like you’re sneaking in somewhere you shouldn’t be.
There’s about two dozen spectators dotted along the touchline. Among them is Scotland Under-21s manager Billy Stark.
I remember the Oxford United of the mid 1980s with players like Ray Houghton, John Aldridge and Billy Hamilton. Milk Cup winners in 1986, this was also the era that saw famed nutcase and pension stealer Robert Maxwell at the helm. It’s a very different story for the Oxford of today who now find themselves a non-league club playing in the Conference National.
This isn’t their first game in Scotland this summer as they defeated Morton 3-0 at Cappielow on Saturday.
The rain comes down just as the game kicks off and it doesn’t let up for the rest of the match. Unfortunately there’s no shelter either.
The game begins at pace and it’s clear to see it’s no stroll in the park friendly. Both teams are totally committed to getting a result and this turns it into a decent encounter.
The most notable name, for me, in the Oxford line-up is 20 year-old Alfie Potter, on loan from Peterborough. Potter was part of the Havant & Waterlooville side that lost 5-2 to Liverpool in the FA Cup in 2008. Joining Oxford on a season long loan last month, Potter has now played for 6 different clubs on loan while at Peterborough. He doesn’t see that much of the ball today. When he does he sets off on mazy dribbles. Almost every time he tries one turn too many and ends up beating himself.
Although Oxford initially look more of an attacking force it’s Rangers who take the lead in practically their first foray over the half-way line. On seven minutes Andy Little bangs home a lovely half-volley into the top corner from the edge of the box.
There’s plenty of tasty challenges going in from players on both sides. It being a friendly of course the ref isn’t showing any cards, but he’s frequently having to pull a few players aside to have some words with them.
The U’s almost get back into it when Ross Perry, believing the ball to have crossed the line for a throw-in decides to stop playing. Oxford’s winger takes the ball into the penalty area and fires a shot just over the bar. The defender is soundly chastised by his team-mates. “Don’t stop playing! Play the whistle”. In response he has a half-hearted moan to the referee about the ball being out. It wasn’t. Lesson learned though I would imagine.
At half-time Rangers put on Israeli trialist and Pedro Mendes lookalike Gil Bluhmennstein, who was recently released by Villarreal. Rejected as an 11 year old at Tottenham Hotspur, Bluhmennstein also played with Gent in Belgium. He showed a couple of nice touches today, although nothing that really made him stand out. From what I’ve read about him he’s determined to make a name for himself in Europe so hopefully he’ll impress enough at Rangers to be offered a contract.
Rangers get their second with five minutes left. Stephen Stirling sends a lovely chip over the heads of the Oxford defence for Lennon to get on the end of it and lift the ball over Ryan Clarke in goal and into the top right hand corner. A well worked move to seal a deserved win for Rangers.
Pictured below is Bluhmennstein (14), some of his colleagues and the referee all cleaning off their boots before going into the dressing room after the match.
Rangers: Adam, Lowing (Wylde 60), Perry, McMillan, Kinniburgh (Loy 75), Lennon, Ness, Emslie (Cole 60), Stirling, Loy (Bagci 60), Little (Bluhmennstein 45)
Scorers: Little (7), Lennon (85)