Following the exciting, yet ultimately fruitless false dawn last season, Rangers now look like a side who are ready to take the next step and dethrone reigning champions Glasgow City.
A commanding 3-1 victory on Sunday represented a major step forward for Malky Thomson’s side. It also moved them above City to the top of the table once more, with an additional game in hand on their rivals.
Goals from the terrific Lizzie Arnot and lively Jane Ross either side of a Niamh Farrelly own goal put the hosts firmly in command at the Rangers Training Centre. Even with the loss of goalkeeper Jenna Fife to a red card in the second half, Rangers remained in control of the match, despite a late consolation strike from Clare Shine.
The result makes a clear statement to their fellow title challengers that Rangers are not going to drift out of the race as tamely as they did last season. Back then, they were guilty of going missing in the big games as the battle for the title began to heat up, but they stepped up and performed from back-to-front in this encounter.
After the match, both Arnot and Thomson paid tribute to the quality Rangers have all the way through their squad at the moment. This was displayed by the fact that the likes of Zoe Ness, Brogan Hay and the returning Kirsty Howat remained unused on the bench. All three of those players are capable of winning matches for their side.
When they are added to starters Arnot, Ross and Megan Bell, as well as substitute Kaela McCoy, Rangers possess more than enough firepower to maintain a title challenge this year.
Most of that firepower was there for large parts of last year, though. The difference now is that injuries and individual loss of form shouldn’t worry Thomson quite as much this time, with enough options in attack to allow for such eventualities.
Similarly in midfield, with Kirsten Reilly injured and Emma Brownlie also missing large parts of the season through injury, they would have struggled to fill that void in the past. However, the likes of Tessel Middag, Chelsea Cornet and Sam Kerr have provided top notch performances every week, while debutant Ciara Grant looks like she will add another useful option in the midfield area.
This in particular will make a huge difference in the title race, as Glasgow City showed just how much they are missing Jo Love’s quality and leadership in the middle of the park.
Defensively, Rangers boast the strongest full-back group in the league, as well as a solid partnership in central defence in captain Brianna Westrup and Chantelle Swaby. Fife remains one of the top goalkeepers in the league, while Megan Cunningham is a more than capable back up.
All in all, Thomson must be feeling pretty good with where his side are at the moment. They sit top of the league, with the best squad in the country and finally getting it right on the big occasions.
At this stage, the title is theirs to lose.
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