The clocks going back marking the end of British Summer Time is not normally a item that is associated with green shoots of optimism. Yet off the back of a 3-0 home win against Kilmarnock, Rangers fans were finally treated to a display that may make the onset of the darker nights a little more bearable, as they take home some positivity at last.
With the exclusion of an out of form Barrie McKay from the starting line-up and the long called for introduction of Michael O’Halloran, Rangers fans were treated to a display of pace and direct running that has been sorely missed thus far this season. O’Halloran’s raison d'être is to get to the by-line and deliver crosses into the box and he accomplished this to great effect. O’Halloran’s running gave a poor Kilmarnock team all sorts of problems - particularly in the first half - and the score line after 45 minutes could have been far more than just the two goals that separated the teams. Joe Garner in particular looks to be a player who can benefit from the consistent, quality service that O’Halloran can provide, as so far this season he has spent too many games with his back to goal.
In the centre of the park Josh Windass is also starting to find form and fitness and together with Halliday and Holt is forging a midfield trio that is full of energy, running and no little guile. Windass showed a real willingness and enthusiasm for getting on the ball and displayed a range of passing against Kilmarnock that was hitherto unsuspected, while laying on the perfect ball for Lee Wallace for the opening goal. Rangers have to keep taking their chances in this manner as the difference to matches when Rangers get the first goal in games cannot be over stated.
Defensively, Rangers are starting to look more solid than they have done recently and the introduction of Hill seems to have had a growing, positive effect on Rob Kiernan. It is worth remembering that Rob Kiernan is only 25 and has played for Rangers for the most part partnering Danny Wilson - who is a year younger. Having an experienced campaigner like Hill next to him can only be good for Kiernan's development and hopefully he can grow further into this demanding role. A clean sheet at home is exactly what the doctor ordered in that respect.
Even more good news was forthcoming from the fact that Mark Warburton could make substitutions and give some players who should be pushing for first team starts some much needed game time, without the game hanging in the balance. Martyn Waghorn, Joe Dodoo and Matt Crooks will no doubt all have big parts to play in the season ahead and the benefit of them getting time on the pitch when the game is already won can be nothing but good for these players and the squad as a whole.
At the managerial level, Mark Warburton finally seems to have a clearer idea of his best eleven and is getting nearer to a stable starting team that is match fit and can be trusted to deliver. "The first half, especially, was by far our best performance. It was a good 90 minutes' work," said Warburton. For once, nobody would disagree.
The onus is now on the team to build on this impressive display and consolidate the second place slot, with a view to start closing the gap on Celtic. While Rangers have now shown against Kilmarnock that they can provide an excellent level of entertaining football against an SPFL team that is on a par with that shown last season, only a consistent level of performance similar to this will help achieve these goals.
Rangers have shown they can do it. They now have to show they can do it regularly.