The life of a Rangers goalkeeper is decided in moments.

Because, even during an Old Firm game, you might only face a single shot on target. It’s the ability to perform these isolated incidents to the letter that builds careers at the club.

On Saturday, in a 3-0 win over Celtic, Robby McCrorie impressed again to keep his fourth clean sheet for Rangers in as many starts. Quick off his line, aggressive in the air and agile to stop Matt O’Riley when through one-on-one, the 25-year-old has made the very most of a chance that’s long been in the post. Demonstrating the value of a keeper who can be proactive as well as reactive in goals.

“He's been injured for four out of the six or seven months I've been here. He always knew he was getting an opportunity and all he can do is keep playing as he did today,” Michael Beale told the gathered press post-match.

“I think that's four clean sheets on the bounce as a Rangers first-team keeper, that's not a bad record to upkeep, he's set a high standard for himself.”

Issues in the goalkeeping department have been a running thread throughout Rangers’ two recent unsuccessful domestic campaigns, incidentally since McCrorie’s last played in August 2022, when Allan McGregor and Jon McLaughlin were unavailable due to Covid regulations.

While a goalkeeper remains on Beale’s summer wishlist and a bigger sample size would be required in any case to determine whether he can be No.1 next season, McCrorie was a difference-maker on Saturday.

His first real involvement came after James Tavernier gifted possession cheaply on 15 minutes, presenting Jota with the ball at the edge of the box with Oh ready to run into the space behind Connor Goldson.

Here, the keeper is quick off his line to limit the area available for Oh to exploit, while John Souttar stays close enough to prevent a shot.

Throughout this season, Celtic have repeatedly created goals after overloading the left side. Even if this example comes off the back of a Rangers mistake, these runs behind Goldson have been a constant all season.

Take this example from the League Cup Final. Aaron Mooy gets turned ahead of the defence which attracts the attention of Connor Goldson and momentarily disjoints the defensive line.

Creating just enough space in the defence to fashion a two-vs-one, which leads to Kyogo's goal.

This example doesn't demonstrate a situation that McGregor could've necessarily changed by sweeping up, but it does indicate a trend that's been spotted throughout Old Firms, attempting to target space on the right side of the defence.

And, if McCrorie hadn't been quick off his line in the first 15 minutes, Oh may well have had a strong shooting opportunity. 

Throughout the game, McCrorie's proclivity to limit the space that Celtic were able to play within made the pitch small in Rangers' favour. It stopped chances before they'd originated. 

A minute later the Scotland keeper is fast to react off his line again.

A free-kick grants Callum McGregor the rare opportunity of dictating play unopposed from the base of midfield and, with Fashion Sakala seemingly failing to block a pass into Tony Ralston, the right-back can pick out the space behind the defence for Liel Abada to burst into.

By the time Abada’s made his outside-to-in run, McCrorie is already way off his line, ensuring that he’s first to the ball and again, stopping another dangerous moment at the source. This also shows why protection from the front is necessary at all times, to prevent unopposed passes over the top.

At the risk of writing these actions off as simple, McCrorie’s proactivity did two things.

Firstly, it allowed Beale’s side to start that 5-10 yards higher up the pitch, safe in the knowledge that if a ball was played into the space behind the defence, McCrorie would be on hand to sweep up.

Secondly, it covered mistakes. How often have this side demonstrated promise before being let down by a sucker punch in recent Old Firms? Moments like this, when the press was broken, would’ve been far riskier with a goalkeeper slower off his line.

Moreover, would the intensity of press applied have even been possible without McCrorie’s proclivity to sweep up behind the defence?

READ MORE: The tactical plan that resulted in victory over Celtic 

After the break, the goalkeeper’s big moment facing a shot would arrive at a key juncture.

Here, when Ryan Jack’s pocket is picked by O’Riley, the midfielder finds a way beyond Souttar before unleashing his shot.

After the ball is won, McCrorie retreats but not all the way to his goalline, instead remaining around the six-yard spot to limit the distance between himself and the shot, and presumably in an attempt to narrow the angle. Stepping across with O’Riley, McCrorie stays big before throwing out a strong left hand.

The academy graduate was also quick to spring off his line and claim crosses, gathering all three of his attempts.

Again, while these are bread-and-butter moments for many goalkeepers, commanding the box is not a prerequisite for every No.1. It's a vital trait, especially when defending a lead, that can relieve the pressure on a defence. 

McCrorie’s final main involvement came 20 minutes from the end as he again covered up for a disjointed moment of pressure higher up the pitch.

After Sakala is side-stepped by Kobayashi, a pass is played through the home side’s press into Reo Hatate, with Lundstram anticipating Sakala showing the centre-back wide to make the red-outlined pass, a trend that worked well throughout the game.

In this frame, Celtic now have space to hit space behind the defence with their opponents not set up to pressurise the ball. 

Jack is faced with Hatate and Goldson is subsequently attracted forward by the positioning of O’Riley, leaving the backline disjointed. This provides Kyogo with a perfect opportunity to run behind. Again, it's that space down the Celtic left the visitors are targeting. 

But McCrorie is again proactive, stopping what would be an excellent opportunity at source by intercepting the ball outside his penalty area and covering the initial mistake higher up the pitch.

Incidentally, this was a theme when he last faced Celtic in 2021 – perhaps demonstrating Rangers’ reaction to playing with a No.1 who’s comfortable enacting the sweeper-keeper role.

“100%,” came Beale’s response when asked if McCrorie was part of his plans going forward.

Seasons span longer than two matches but there’s plenty to like based on what the stopper has shown so far. Having waited patiently for an opportunity, Saturday proved some level of vindication and – in keeping with the growing trend around world football – it wasn’t just the keeper's shot-stopping that made the difference.