Football/Soccer

Rangers manager Graeme Murty offers no excuse for loss to Dundee

Dundee's Kevin Holt (centre) with Paul McGowan (right) and Rangers' Joe Garner battle for the ball during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match at Dens Park
By Andy Newport, Press Association Sport

RANGERS caretaker boss Graeme Murty refused to use the Ibrox turmoil as an excuse after his timid team lost to Dundee.

The U20s coach was in charge again as Rangers took on Paul Hartley's side following Mark Warburton's exit.

But the Light Blues were out-fought and out-run during a worrying opening 45 minutes at Dens Park that saw the hosts strike twice.

Mark O'Hara slotted Dundee ahead after 13 minutes before Kevin Holt added a second with a free-kick just before the break.

Joe Garner did pull one back for Rangers after 62 minutes but it was not enough to spare his team their first league defeat at Dundee since August 1992.

And Murty was in no mood to blame the change of management for the 2-1 loss as he savaged his players' first-half display.

He said: "The [managerial] disruption has got nothing to do with players showing the right attitude and commitment.

"They were fully prepared, they know what it meant, that they would have a battle and have to more than match that.

"But I've been honest and told them they didn't do that for 45 minutes.

"It's disappointing. It's not really easy to put into words the emotions myself and the players went through.

"We have to be better than that and it's not acceptable, we know that and they know that and we'll take this on the chin. But there's no doubt, that's not acceptable.

"Dundee were aggressive, organised and tackled hard. We didn't match that till half-time. If you give them 45 minutes and a two-goal head start it's hard to get back into it.

"It's incredibly frustrating. I didn't think we got any control on the game or managed to disrupt their pattern and shape. Dundee made the game the way they wanted it to be."

While Dundee climbed back into the top six, the defeat left Rangers six points adrift of Aberdeen in the race for second.

To make matters worse, the visitors lost defender Clint Hill after half an hour to a head knock which left the veteran complaining of double vision, while striker Garner picked up a booking that rules him out of next month's Parkhead clash with rampant leaders Celtic.

Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson said last week former Reading defender Murty would remain in charge for the "foreseeable future" but chairman Dave King may decide to step up his search for a new boss in the wake of this latest disappointment.

Murty, though, has vowed to continue striving for better while he remains in charge.

"The fans have been through the wringer and they deserve better than we gave them," he confessed.

"We can say we'll endeavour to put those things right. At half-time we addressed certain issues but we need to be better than showing commitment.

"You saw a team that struggled to turn it around when things went against them. When your confidence takes a knock that can be a symptom.

"But there are more than enough characters in the squad to turn it around.

"We just need them to come to the fore, grab the game by the scruff of the neck and change the manner of it."

LEE McCulloch admitted he could not bear to watch the two late goals that denied him an opening victory in his second spell as Kilmarnock caretaker manager.

Killie looked to have ended a 12-game losing run against Aberdeen as they frustrated the Dons and led through Rory McKenzie's 41st-minute strike with seven minutes left at Rugby Park.

But Aberdeen substitutes Jayden Stockley and Peter Pawlett both capitalised on hopeful balls into the box to strike twice in two minutes and turn the game on its head.

Killie sub Miles Addison had a hugely contrasting experience to his Aberdeen counterparts, allowing Stockley to stab home as he tried to shield the ball back to goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.

And Addison watched in horror as Niall McGinn's cross bounced off him and fell for Pawlett, whose shot deflected in off the big defender.

McCulloch will bring himself to watch again but not when the wounds were so raw after a "crazy seven minutes".

"It was a horrendous goal to lose and it gives Aberdeen the impetus to move on and get another," he said.

"I specifically didn't watch the two goals again so I couldn't come here and tell you lies."

But McCulloch added: "I'm proud as anything of the way the boys applied themselves and bought into the game plan, and the way they worked. I'm disappointed but not worried.

"I spoke to the dressing room as a whole and told them all to go home and watch the game and come back in Tuesday with a smile on their face and a spring in their step."

McCulloch now has a decision to make over whether he puts himself forward for the job on a long-term basis but he was in no rush.

"I wouldn't even say the game is out the way, it's still running round my head and it probably will be tonight," he said. "I will watch the game again, take notes and enjoy my day off. I don't know if I will be thinking about anything other than those goals."

McCulloch has no meeting with the board planned.

"I have not even thought about it," he added. "I had a one-and-a-half minute conversation with them so I will speak again some day this week."

The former Rangers skipper admitted his job had been "100 miles an hour" since Lee Clark left for Bury on Wednesday.

"Long days but I have enjoyed them," he added. "I have been up at 10 to six every morning and leaving here at seven/eight at night but it has all been enjoyable, and everyone round about me is working hard to help me."

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes felt their late win was testament to their strength in depth and their attitude to keep pressing despite failing to hit the heights of their seven-goal thrashing of Motherwell in midweek.

"The performance was in total contrast to Wednesday night but it's still the same three points," he added.

"We looked on Wednesday night as if we couldn't do anything wrong, we were absolutely on top of our game, and today in the first half it was the opposite. We were sloppy with our work. Credit to Kilmarnock, Lee set them up well and they were very compact.

"I don't think we could have gone any more attacking, just to try and force the issue, and thankfully we have managed to find a way to win."

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Football/Soccer