Rangers saw their Premiership title bid get off to the worst possible start as Kilmarnock stunned Michael Beale’s side with victory at Rugby Park.

Brad Lyons netted the only goal of the game after 65 minutes to give Derek McInnes his first win over Rangers as Killie boss. This was no smash and grab victory, either.

The hosts were well worth their three points as Beale’s side toiled on the plastic pitch. It was a wretched start to the campaign for Rangers and improvement must come quickly.


This is the kind of result that can cost teams titles. Yes, it may only be the opening weekend of the Premiership, but Rangers simply cannot afford to drop points in this manner if they are to challenge Celtic, never mind overcome them.

A trip to Rugby Park was never going to be easy for Rangers but few would have predicted a day as woeful and abject as this. In so many ways, it was a shocker of a showing.

The first weeks of the campaign should have given Beale’s side the opportunity to build some momentum heading into the Old Firm clash at Ibrox. Rangers had to make a statement of intent start.

Instead, they find themselves three points off the pace already after Celtic unfurled the flag and then took care of business with victory over Ross County. Just 90 minutes in and Rangers are playing catch-up.

This was certainly not in the script. There is no need to overreact and it would be silly to write Rangers off on the back of one competitive outing after a summer of significant change.

But the money spent and the players signed have raised expectations and demands that simply must be met. The pressure on Beale and his side has been notched up already.


Beale spoke about the importance of a quick start as he previewed the trip to Rugby Park on Friday afternoon. This was certainly not what he would have had in mind as Rangers flopped on the first day.

It was lacklustre stuff from Rangers for most of the first half and chances were hard to come by. Cyriel Dessers spurned the best of them as he tried to make space for himself once too often and was squeezed out after wasting the chance to get a shot away.

The second half was just as bad from those in blue and orange. Strong penalty claims when Connor Goldson was held by Stuart Findlay came to nothing, as did two quickfire efforts from Kieran Dowell as a shot was deflected over and he nodded wide across goal.

Suggestions that Rangers will lack pace and lack width this term were played out in Ayrshire. A series of balls over the top came to nothing and Rangers looked devoid of threat and purpose.

The names on the shirts have changed, but many of the concerns from last term filtered into the new season. This was a harsh reminder that Beale’s side are very much a working in progress.


Rangers had a new look for the new season. Beale handed starts to five of his summer recruits and made a total of seven changes from the side that finished last term at St Mirren.

Three of the summer arrivals started on the bench and Dujon Sterling was the only absentee as those that have put pen-to-paper at Ibrox were given their introduction to the unique world of Scottish football.

Jack Butland took his place between the sticks for his first competitive outing as Allan McGregor’s successor and it was a solid bow overall. Dowell, Abdallah Sima, Sam Lammers and Dessers were also on show from the start.

Come the hour mark, two had made way. Dowell impressed with his endeavour as he put in a shift but it was a thoroughly unimpressive bow for Dessers.

Todd Cantwell replaced Dowell and Danilo took over from Dessers but Rangers were behind before either could get into the game. Once Kilmarnock were ahead, the visitors were chasing it.

Snap judgements shouldn’t be made on those that Beale has recruited. It has to be said, though, that better must come soon from the likes of Lammers and Sima after largely ineffective debuts.


The matches are now coming thick and fast for Rangers. Once the analysis from this fixture has been completed, all eyes will be focused on their return to the Champions League against Servette.

The Swiss were also in action on Saturday as they played their third league outing of the campaign against Stade Lausanne Ouchy and left it late to snatch a point.

In football and financial terms, the third qualifying round tie carries huge significance for Rangers. Progression to the play-off stage is worth around £5million in prize money and the chance to reach the groups for the second successive season is one that Beale’s side must grasp.

If they are to do that, they will need to raise their levels significantly. Following up a poor pre-season campaign with this showing will surely have taken some of the early optimism out of the support and Ibrox will be expectant when Servette come to town on Wednesday evening.

It will naturally take time for the new arrivals to settle and for Rangers to get up to speed. That commodity is always in short supply, though, and a European challenge will certainly focus the minds in the coming days.


The objective in the first season back in the Premiership was always going to be to ensure that a second campaign was secured. Now Killie can attempt to kick-on under boss Derek McInnes.

An positive summer at Rugby Park has given rise to a belief that a relegation fight can be avoided with relative ease in the coming months. Rather than looking over their shoulders, this could be a season for Kilmarnock to look onwards and upwards and a bid for a top six spot is not out of the question.

The hosts were compact and combative in the first half as their best openings came from a couple of corners rather than open play. After the break, Danny Armstrong forced Butland into action on the angle and then scooped another effort over as Kilmarnock showed their intent.

It paid off when Lyons gave them the lead. Rangers failed to clear a long throw-in from David Watson and Lyons produced an accomplished finish from inside the area.

Butland had to be smart to save from Kyle Magennis before Armstrong fired just wide. It was Kilmarnock that looked more likely to score at that stage and they could have extended their lead before the final blow of the whistle secured a famous victory.