THE William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round match between Kilmarnock and Rangers at Rugby Park on Saturday evening may have finished goalless, but it was a compelling encounter packed with incident.

Both sides had chances to score, win the tie and book their place in the quarter-finals during the course of 90 frenetic minutes. James Tavernier had a penalty saved and Youssouf Mulumbu saw a shot cleared off the line. A draw was a fair result.

It all whetted the appetite for the replay at Ibrox on Wednesday week. So what did we learn from events in Ayrshire?

RANGERS MISS MORELOS

No disrespect to Jermain Defoe, who did as much with the limited service he received from his team mates as could reasonably be expected and came close to netting late on, but Rangers weren’t the same team without their errant striker Alfredo Morelos.

The combative Colombian is more of a physical presence up front, more of an out ball, than the Englishman. He is, too, more mobile. His team could have done with him dropping deep and picking up possession when they were being swamped in midfield during the first-half at the weekend.

“He (Morelos) is big asset in terms of scoring goals and bullying players for us,” said Rangers midfielder Scott Arfield. “I think you would say Alfredo is more dominant in terms of leaning up against centre halves.”

The Ibrox club will be without their leading goalscorer once again in the Ladbrokes Premiership match against St Johnstone at home this Saturday and then Hamilton away in the league the following Sunday.

Gerrard’s men will, if they perform as they can, dominate both of those outings and Morelos, who picked up a three game suspension for his stamp on Scott McKenna of Aberdeen at Pittodrie last Wednesday, won’t be so conspicuous by his absence.

But in more challenging matches a different approach may be advisable. “We try to play the same way in every game,” said Arfield. “But when we go to different places we maybe need to change it and use second balls.”

Having Morelos back for the cup replay at Ibrox on Wednesday week – the third game of his ban will be served in the Premiership – will increase Rangers’ chances of progressing to the cup quarter-finals.

POWER WAS LUCKY NOT TO WALK

The Irish midfielder had another outstanding game in the centre of the park for Kilmarnock until a head injury forced him to leave the field early in the second-half.

But he was highly fortunate to remain on the park that long. His challenge on Ryan Jack midway through the first-half was by no means a deliberate attempt to injure his rival. He was trying to win a ball in the air when he accidentally kicked the Rangers man in the head. But he could have had no complaints if referee Alan Muir had ordered him off.

“It’s a red card,” said Rangers left back Andy Halliday, who was standing nearby when the incident took place, afterwards. “It’s as simple as that. It’s endangering an opponent.”

Given the punishments that have been meted out to players for lesser infringements this season, Power was lucky. It will be interesting to see if the SFA compliance officer cites him in the coming days.

MULUMBU IS BACK

Youssouf Mulumbu, the Congolese midfielder who returned to Kilmarnock on loan from Celtic during the January transfer window, made his first start in four months against Rangers and performed brilliantly.

Mulumbu was unfortunate not to cap his comeback with a goal. He had a shot cleared off the Rangers goal line by Halliday during a penalty box melee in the first-half. His all-round showing augured well for the Rugby Park club for the remainder of the 2018/19 campaign.

“I was at Kilmarnock last season and the group hasn’t really changed,” he said. “It didn’t take me long to adapt. The gaffer has known me since West Brom, so I just needed a couple of games to get my fitness back and I’m winning the ball.

“I’ve come into a team which is very confident. We have won a lot of games and I hope we are going to finish in the top three. Seeing the crowd get behind me is very helpful, so, hopefully, we can achieve something great.”

MCCRORIE IS A YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR CONTENDER

Ross McCrorie, the Rangers midfielder, has flourished under the guidance of Gerrard and his assistant Gary McAllister. His manager feels the 20-year-old is suited to a certain type of game. But he will find it increasingly hard to leave the youngster out of his starting line-up regardless of the occasion or opposition if he keeps performing like he did at the weekend.

McCrorie’s midfield partner Arfield, who has played in the Premier League in England as well as at full international level with Canada, is certainly a huge admirer. “He’s been terrific,” he said. “He’s about putting out fires, getting the ball back and giving it to different players. For me, he is the best in the league at it. He is the sort of player who puts his body in there, even in training. He never wants to miss a minute.”

The Scotland Under-21 midfielder will be a strong contender for the Young Player of the Year awards which are handed out in May.

RANGERS ARE FAVOURITES TO PROGRESS

Kilmarnock have enjoyed such success against Celtic and Rangers since Steve Clarke became their manager last season that it would be foolish to write them off ahead of the replay. Indeed, they have drawn twice and won once on their last four visits to Ibrox.

However, Gerrard’s men will fancy their chances of advancing to the last eight on grass at home on Wednesday week. Especially with Morelos, who will be available for selection once again, back leading the line. They were by far the happier of the two teams at the final whistle.

HeraldScotland | Sport

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