Good evening all! It's a big night for both Rangers
as the teams prepare to go head to head over two legs for the right to play in the Scottish Premiership next season. Managers Stuart McCall
and Ian Baraclough
have submitted their team sheets, so we'll have the starting lineups for you in just a moment...
RANGERS: Bell; Foster, McGregor, Zaliukas, Wallace; Vuckic, Murdoch, Shiels, Law, Miller, Clark
MOTHERWELL: Long, Hammell, McManus, Ainsworth, Lasley, Law, Erwin, Johnson, Laing, Pearson, McDonald
Both sides had no fresh injury concerns ahead of tonight's match, and McCall has made just one change from the team that started against Hibernian in the second leg of the playoff semi-final. Nicky Clark is back in the side to replace Lee McCulloch.
Rangers lineup in a 4-4-2 formation, with Clark partnering experiencing striker Kenny Miller in the attack. McCulloch, who has come under fire from Gers supporters for some of his performances this season, drops to the bench.
is the one to watch for the home side this evening. The Slovenian international has been the driving force behind the Gers' resurgence under McCall, giving them a goalscoring threat and pace on the right wing.
© Getty Images
Motherwell were last in action on May 23 when they played out a goalless draw with Patrick Thistle. They rested a host of experienced players for that match but have recalled them this evening, with Keith Lasley and striker Scott McDonald
returning to the starting XI.
McDonald is the one the Gers will be wary of. The former Celtic striker has netted five goals in 11 appearances since joining the Steelmen for a second spell earlier in the season. Baraclough's side have struggled to find goals this term, so if the hosts can keep him quiet, that will likely be half the job done.
As that tweet from the official Rangers account illustrates, the Gers have dominated this fixture over the years, winning 212 of the 309 competitive games between the two teams. Motherwell have won just 45 and 52 have been draws.
The balance of power in Scottish football has been turned on its head since financial turmoil forced Rangers to reform as a bottom-tier club, but they are still the favourites tonight, heading into the game off the back of two-legged victories over Hibernian and Queen of the South.
Motherwell have won just one of their last five games, and they face a side who are determined to fulfil their goal of returning to the top flight within three seasons.
Some pre-match quotes from both managers coming up...
"I'm quite a loyal person and I had almost four brilliant years at Motherwell. But my thoughts on that and what comes next for them will only come after Sunday's match. I'm fully focused on doing the job I came here to do. Rangers are my club and we want to get promoted."
© Getty Images
"We've got some really good flair players who can go win a game. We are going to go there and try to score. We are not going to try to sit back and defend. Rangers are a good side themselves. They've got a bit of momentum going as well so we know we'll have that to contend with. We know it will be a fervent crowd. We are going to have to silence them as much as we can."
© Getty Images
PREDICTION: Less than five minutes remaining until kickoff here at Ibrox, which gives me just enough time to get my prediction in. I'm going with a 2-1 win for Rangers, with Vuckic among the goals. The Gers have the momentum after winning two playoff ties already, while Motherwell head into the match in poor form. I think the packed out stadium will unnerve the visitors.
KICKOFF! We're underway here at Ibrox and the noise from the sellout crowd is unbelievable. Is it about to get even louder, or will Motherwell have their way and silence them? Stay tuned to find out...
Steven Hammell plays a long ball into the Rangers half, but the hosts quickly regain possession and break towards the other end. Nicky Clark gains possession inside Motherwell box, but is dispossessed before he could get his shot away.
CHANCE! Wallace plays a lofted pass across the face of the visitors' goal and George Long misses it at full stretch. It only needed a touch from one of his teammates and the Gers would be in front. It eventually falls to Vuckic, whose shot is deflected wide for a corner.
Marvin Johnson swings in Motherwell's first corner of the evening, which Gers keeper Cammy Bell confidently claims. Rangers break and carve out a half-chance at the other end as Law's first-time strike is blocked.
CLOSE! Kenny Miller comes within inches of opening the scoring for Rangers as he gets a shot away from just outside the box, his effort curling towards the top corner before dipping just wide. Long wouldn't have stood a chance if that had been on target!
It's been all Rangers so far. They are feeding off the energy of this crowd and are determined to attack the visitors at every opportunity. Clark and Miller look dangerous up front, while Law and Vuckic are also proving a handful from midfield.
Law and Wallace link up well along the left and have the Motherwell players back-peddling to quell the threat. The Steelman eventually snuff out the danger, but look nervous doing so.
SAVE! Poor defending from Lasley as he scuffs a clearance straight into the path of Law inside the box. The Rangers man goes for goal and stings the palms of Long with a vicious strike. It was a great stop from the Well keeper, but a late offside flag means it wouldn't have counted anyway.
Rangers need to be patient here. They are dominating possession and Motherwell's rear guard looks prone to nervous errors tonight. If they keep putting balls into the area, you get the impression something will give eventually.
GOAL! Rangers 0-1 Motherwell (Lee Erwin)
Just when it looked like Motherwell were about to cave under the pressure, they go and take the lead at the other end! Lee Erwin
beats his marker and cuts inside the area, shooting on the turn. His effort takes a cruel deflection off McGregor and rolls beyond Cammy Bell for 1-0.
Well's lead came very much against the run of play, but the goal has spurred them on. Erwin gets his head to a corner and nods the ball narrowly over the bar, coming within a yard of doubling his tally in the space of a few minutes.
More pressure from Motherwell as they almost hit Rangers on the counter-attack, but the final ball to Lionel Ainsworth
has too much pace on it for the winger. The move breaks down and the Gers break at the other end, forcing a corner as McManus puts it behind.
SAVE! Rangers are back on the front foot now and Long has to be at his best to keep out Clark at point-blank range. The Gers striker gets two bites of the cherry, but the visitors' keeper gets a boot in the way of his follow-up effort and his defence clears its lines.
BOOKING! McGregor is the first player in the book tonight as he goes straight through Ainsworth 30 yards from goal. It was a clumsy challenge from the Rangers man, who can have no complaints about receiving a caution.
SHOT! McDonald goes for goal from the set piece, but his strike lacks the power to trouble Bell, who makes an easy claim.
GOAL! Rangers 0-2 Motherwell (Stephen McManus)
A chorus of boos rings out from the Ibrox crowd as Stephen McManus
doubles Motherwell's lead with a lovely glancing header from a free kick. Johnson supplied the cross from over on the right and the Rangers defence was caught ball watching, allowing the former Celtic man to nod one beyond Cammy Bell. The Gers have it all to do now!
A superb interception from Long in the Motherwell goal there. He raced off his line as Miller chased down a lofted ball and had to get their first. A brave move from the goalkeeper that results in another Rangers corner.
There will be two minutes of stoppage time to play here. Can Rangers end the half on a high?
HALF-TIME: Rangers 0-2 Motherwell
Rangers are booed off as Motherwell head into the break with a two-goal lead in this playoff final. The Gers face an uphill struggle to reach the Scottish Premiership now, but the half-time scoreline is slightly harsh on them.
Let's take nothing away from Well. The Steelmen recovered from a shaky start and have punished Rangers for their defensive mistakes, but Stuart McCall
and his players will be perplexed by this scoreline following their early dominance.
In many ways, that first half sums up where Rangers have gone wrong this season. Scrappy goals like the two they have conceded this evening are the reason they finished behind the two Edinburgh clubs in the Scottish Championship.
Below you can see Lee Erwin silencing Ibrox after opening the scoring for the visitors. Will he and his teammates still be smiling in 45 minutes time? Stay tuned to find out...
KICKOFF! We're back under way here at Ibrox and neither side has made any changes for the second half. Rangers have 45 minutes to turn this match around!
GOAL! Rangers 0-3 Motherwell (Lionel Ainsworth)
Motherwell start the second period in blistering fashion as they hit Rangers on the counter yet again! This was the move of the match so far, as Pearson and Erwin combine before lining up Ainsworth with a through ball. The midfielder did the rest, beating Bell at his near post with an unstoppable strike that ended up in the bottom corner!
Is there any way back for Rangers now? They look almost certain to finish up on the wrong end of this scoreline, but a goal or two would hand them a lifeline ahead of this weekend's return leg.
SUBSTITUTION: Rangers have made a change, throwing on Tom Walsh for Dean Shiels, who has had a quiet game. Walsh is a young winger who has draw comparisons to Ronaldo. The Gers could certainly do with a bit of his flare right now.
SUBSTITUTION: Two changes for the Gers in the space of as many minutes as Kris Boyd replaces Nicky Clark in a like-for-like swap up front. McCall looking to add a pair of fresh legs to his attack as he seeks to salvage something from this mess.
Motherwell stage another attack as Ainsworth floats a cross into the box from wide on the right. Foster clears, but only as far as Erwin, whose ball back into the danger zone is deflected behind for a corner.
The visitors will feel hard done by as the referee has just missed clear fouls on Erwin and Johnson in quick succession. He awards only a Motherwell throw-in deep in Rangers territory, but the move breaks down as McDonald blazes an effort over the bar from distance.
There are less than a thousand Motherwell fans here tonight, but they make their voices heard as the official turns a blind eye to another foul on Erwin. Walsh puts a shot into the stand at the other end moments later.
BOOKING! Laing goes into the book for a foul on Kenny Miller. He was lucky that was only a booking as he went in studs-first. Rangers squander the free kick and Motherwell hit them on the break once again.
CLOSE! It is almost four for Motherwell as Ainsworth fires over from in front of goal. Slack defending from Rangers almost cost them dear, and not for the first time tonight, as the midfielder was given the space to get his shot away but failed to hit the target.
SUBSTITUTIONS: It's a change apiece as Shane Ferguson replaces Marius Zaliukas for Rangers, and Straker comes on for Hammell for Motherwell as they look to see out these final 20 minutes.
Half-chance for the Steelmen as Tom Walsh's ball across the face of goal is intercepted and the visitors attempt another counter. The move breaks down as Johnson shoots over from long range.
CHANCE! Rangers come agonisingly close to pulling one back as Long thwarts Boyd in front of goal. Foster played an excellent ball in towards the back post and the veteran striker met it with a downward header, only to be foiled by some improvised goalkeeping.
The Gers look determined to pull one back now and Well are content to let them have the ball, safe in the knowledge that their opponents have knack for leaving themselves wide open to counter-attacks.
Into the final 10 minutes now and Rangers win a corner as Walsh's attempted cross is put behind by Straker. Vuckic takes the corner and his cross ends up back at his feet. He attempts to play the ball back into the far post, but puts too much on it and it goes out for a goallkick.
GOAL! Rangers 1-3 Motherwell (Darren McGregor)
The hosts hand themselves a lifeline ahead of the second leg as Darren McGregor
beats Long with a bullet header directly from a corner. Law curled in the cross and McGregor got in between two Motherwell defenders to provide the vital touch.
It's not the scoreline Rangers will have wanted, but if they can force a second here, Motherwell will face a nervous second leg at Fir Park on Sunday.
Less than five minutes to go plus stoppage time and Rangers are trying to ramp up the pressure here. Boyd goes down in the box after a heavy challenge by Straker, but the referee rightly turns a blind eye. Motherwell have made another substitution, taking off goal hero Lee Erwin with Craig Moore taking is place.
Moore makes his first contribution by heading clear a Vuckic corner from over on the right, but Rangers regain possession and surge forward once more. Motherwell have plenty of bodies back and eventually scramble the ball clear.
GOAL DISALLOWED! Kris Boyd collects a long ball from inside the box and lashes one beyond Long. The only problem is that he was half a mile offside when he put the ball in the net. The linesman's flag went up nice and early, so only a small section of the stadium thought that was a goal.
CHANCES! Into the first of four added minutes and the Rangers pressure refuses to let up. First a Vuckic strike whizzes past the far post, then the Slovenian nearly forces an own goal as his ball across the face of goal is almost turned into the net by Louis Laing.
FULL-TIME: Rangers 1-3 Motherwell
Goals from Lee Erwin, Stephen McManus, Lionel Ainsworth give Motherwell the advantage after the first leg of this playoff final, but a Darren McGregor header late on means that Rangers have a glimmer of hope ahead of this Sunday's decider.
Well found themselves under the cosh early on, but they deserve to come away with the advantage based on the balance of play. Rangers left themselves wide open to counter-attacks and paid the price for schoolboy errors.
The return leg takes place at Fir Park from 3pm this Sunday, and Sports Mole
will be on hand to bring you live updates from that, but that's all we have time for this evening, so I'll leave you with our match report
Many thanks for joining us for the first leg of this Scottish Premiership playoff final. Commiserations to the Gers fans and happy partying to those of a Motherwell persuasion!