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Freelance Match Report
By Stuart Fraser
13th November 2008

Captain Barry Ferguson returned to the starting line-up last night but it was a former Ibrox goalkeeper who ensured that it was not to be a joyous return for the Rangers captain after a goalless draw at Fir Park.

Graeme Smith produced several excellent saves to ensure a point for his club in an entertaining midweek match.  Rangers will see it as two points dropped though rather than one gained after Celtic pulled further ahead in the title race after a home win against Kilmarnock.

Motherwell and Rangers both named attack-minded line-ups in a 4-4-2 formation and this ensured the game got off to a free-flowing start with the ball going from end to end in the first 10 minutes. Kris Boyd had the first effort on target when he turned and shot low towards goal but Smith got down easily to it.

In the 12th minute, Motherwell had their first shot on target. Keith Lasley fired a low drive straight at Alan McGregor who failed to hold it but the Rangers defence managed to clear the loose ball before any players in claret and amber managed to pounce on it.

Motherwell had Rangers on the back foot after this and clearly had the majority of possession. The Lanarkshire club were failing to create any clear cut chances though with the Rangers back four proving tough to break down.

The best chance of the first half hour came Rangers way in the 28th minute when a well worked move found its way to Boyd who played a high ball over the Motherwell backline to Kenny Miller. Miller took too much time on the ball though and after it was cleared away, Kyle Lafferty’s shot was deflected wide from which the resultant corner was headed past the post by Boyd.

Ferguson, making his first Rangers start since May’s Scottish Cup Final, nearly put his side in front in the 35th minute. The captain passed the ball wide to Miller from the edge of the box and the ex-Celt played it back into Ferguson whose stretched effort forced a good low stop from Smith.  Smith then denied Miller just a few minutes later when he produced a reflex save from Miller’s shot on the turn.

The former Rangers keeper was letting nothing past him and denied Miller again in the 43rd minute when he saved Miller’s shot on the bounce from a cute nod-on by Lafferty.

Motherwell had one last chance before Steve Conroy blew the half time whistle. The Steelmen won a free kick a few yards outside the box on the left hand side. Steven Hammell elected to cross it into the box but the ball managed to evade both the Motherwell attackers and Rangers defence before going out for the goal kick.

In the second half, both sides showed their willingness to go forward. In the 52nd minute, Steve Davis played a low swerving ball from the wing into the six-yard box which Boyd’s stretched leg failed to get a touch on. Just one minute later, Motherwell forced McGregor into making a wonderful save when he tipped Chris Porter’s 15 yard effort over the bar.

Yet more chances came and went for both sides. Lafferty had a low drive from the edge of the box saved by Smith and the Motherwell No.1 also got down well to a Pedro Mendes effort from a similar range moments later.

Two thirds of the game had passed and when Lafferty shot wide of the target from 18 yards in the 68th minute, you began to sense that the game was destined to end goalless. Walter Smith was hoping that wasn’t the case though and with 15 minutes remaining, he brought Nacho Novo on to replace Lafferty in an attempt to find a goal from somewhere.

It was another ex-Rangers player though who almost did his club no favours in the 78th minute when Stephen Hughes curled a 20 yard effort towards the top left hand corner of the goal but McGregor superbly tipped it over the bar.

Rangers had suffered a huge blow earlier in the week when Kevin Thomson was ruled out for the rest of the season and their was no let-off on the injury front at Fir Park for the Ibrox side when Sasa Papac was stretchered off after a collision with fellow team-mate Kirk Broadfoot.

Rangers continued to search for that elusive goal in the closing minutes and it was Boyd who had the last chance of the match after a Madjid Bougherra cross found the striker at the back post but the club’s top scorer failed to make proper contact with the ball.

MOTHERWELL: Smith, Quin, Hammell, Reynolds, Hughes, Malcolm, Porter, Sutton, Lasley, Fitzpatrick, McGarry

RANGERS: McGregor, Broadfoot, Bougherra, Weir, Papac (Whittaker 80), Davis, Mendes, Ferguson, Lafferty (Novo 75), Boyd, Miller

Attendance: 9,600