Rangers manager Michael Beale admitted his team “got away with one” after edging past Motherwell at Ibrox.
A 24th-minute goal from Cyriel Dessers proved enough to make it three wins and clean sheets in a row and send Rangers above their opponents into third place in the cinch Premiership.
But there were jeers at the final whistle and Beale made it clear to his players they needed to do better after scoring against the run of play and then hanging on in the final 15 minutes.
“From the first minute onwards I was unhappy with the team,” he said.
“The unforced errors with the ball are unacceptable for players playing here. That performance was a really poor one.
“It’s a good goal, something we worked on, trying to overload in the middle with the width. But outside of that, some of our play was so poor against a team in a good place, well organised, who executed their plan better than us. We constantly turned the ball over and left ourselves vulnerable.”
Rabbi Matondo went off with a knee injury after his shot led to the opener, and Beale responded by bringing on centre-back John Souttar to match Motherwell’s formation.
Beale said: “Losing Rabbi (Matondo) to injury – and it doesn’t look like a good one – didn’t help us because we had few players who could dribble with the ball.
“But actually the back three gave us some stability and some possession and some balance behind the ball. I thought those three played well and John Lundstram in front of them and Jack (Butland).
“But in terms of performance that’s well below what the players expect, I expect, the fans expect. We got away with one.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Motherwell, they played well and I’m sure Stuart (Kettlewell) will take a lot from the game, but that’s well below what I am looking for from my team. We had honest words.”
Beale was also missing Tom Lawrence, who will be out until the international break with a calf injury and did not want to throw Kemar Roofe and Abdallah Sima on until later in the game with Wednesday’s Viaplay Cup clash with Livingston in mind.
“We have a quarter-final on Wednesday and it would have been reckless putting those two out on the pitch with that in mind,” he said.
“We had to do certain things to get the result because we weren’t very good.”
Motherwell suffered their second 1-0 defeat in succession and their first loss on the road in the league since Kettlewell took charge in February.
But they created a series of late chances with substitute Oli Shaw forcing an excellent stop from Butland and Blair Spittal being denied by a goal-line clearance from James Tavernier.
A “frustrated” Kettlewell said: “I’ve been involved in a lot of teams that have played here but I can’t remember too many when we’ve been dominant in stages of games, when you’re carving out chances, pinning Rangers in.
“When you look at Rangers towards the end of the game – and this isn’t a criticism, I don’t want people taking it that way – but when their goalkeeper gets booked for wasting time and they are trying to take the ball into the corner, I’ve not really seen that much here.
“That speaks volumes for our performance, but I hold my hands up yet again, we have created chances and we’ve not capitalised on it.
“That’s two weeks now where I believe we’ve not got what we’ve deserved.”
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