This was why I started playing... Cork striker Graham Cummins on what it was like to hit the net against Rangers at Ibrox

This was why I started playing... Cork striker Graham Cummins on what it was like to hit the net against Rangers at Ibrox

WHEN I signed for St Johnstone nearly two and a half years ago, the big attraction joining the Saints was the prospect of playing against Celtic and Rangers.

Growing up I’ve always wanted to play at Celtic Park and Ibrox and scoring at the latter on Saturday was one of the standout moments of my career.

It was the first league victory for St Johnstone at Ibrox in 46 years and a win that not many gave us a hope of getting before the game.

We had been humiliated by Aberdeen three days before the Rangers game and many pundits expected us to go to Ibrox and suffer the same faith.

We knew we were extremely poor against Aberdeen and that we couldn’t have a repeat performance against Rangers.

We have been inconsistent this season and Rangers went into the game on their best run of the season — a four-game winning run.

When you play away from home the first thing a player will always do is check the condition of the pitch, so they know what footwear to use.

In the past Ibrox’s surface has always been like a carpet but on Saturday it was the worst I’ve seen it.

Obviously, the weather, hasn’t helped groundsmen across the country but I was surprised by the condition of the pitch, considering how good it has been in the past.

When we received the Rangers team sheet, our manager highlighted that although it was a good Rangers side, it was still a very young side.

He told us to make sure we stayed in the game and frustrate Rangers.

The Ibrox crowd can be unforgiving if Rangers aren’t performing and we tried to use this to our advantage.

We wanted to frustrate the Rangers’ supporters and then see how a young Rangers team would react to the pressure from their fans.

Of course, when Rangers scored after five minutes I did fear the worst but credit to our lads, they were level five minutes later, when Blair Alston scored.

This was the first time we had played Rangers since Pedro Caixinha’s dismissal as manager.

The former Rangers manager emphasises his team to be a possession-based side when he was in charge of the Gers.

Caretaker boss Graeme Murty has Rangers playing in a different manner and his team aren’t shy about going more direct at times in games.

When you play at places like Celtic Park and Ibrox, you expect that there will be periods in the game, when you will be under the cosh.

I felt throughout the first half we were comfortable in the game and deserved to go in level at half-time.

There was a sense at half-time in the dressing room that we could get more than just a draw from the game.

Before the game, we probably would have taken a draw but our first half performance gave the team so much confidence to go on and claim the win in this game.

When we scored our second, the atmosphere in the ground changed.

Rangers aren’t the same team they were years ago, however, their supporters still expect them to roll teams over at Ibrox.

The Rangers fans were groaning at every mistake made by one of their players and it seemed to affect the Gers’ players.

Even Rangers’ substitutes were receiving abuse when they went down the touchline to warm-up Sitting on the bench I was itching to get on.

These are the games that every player wants to be involved in.

There is always pressure coming on when your team is winning because if we had gone on to draw or lose the game, I’m sure people would have questioned the substitutes.

I was actually in the toilet when one of the other substitutes came into the dressing room to tell me that the manager was looking for me to come on. I normally would do some sort of warm-up before coming on but maybe in the future I won’t because I can be superstitious and this new routine worked.

I was nervous coming on but scoring within 20 seconds of taking to the field certainly helped.

My parents, brother and wife were at the game which made it so special for me.

It was a feeling I won’t forget in a hurry and getting the victory made it that much sweeter.

The victory against Rangers will do so much for the team’s confidence. Rangers are one of the best teams in the league and to go to Ibrox and deservingly win 3-1 sends out a clear message to anyone who doubted the team.

We know that we have been inconsistent at times this season but I don’t think we deserve as much criticism as we have received.

As for Rangers, this will be another setback in what has been an up and down season so far.

For a club like Rangers still to not have appointed a manager nearly two months after Caixinha’s dismissal is strange. They tried to lure Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes to Ibrox but he refused their approach, which tells its own story.

Rangers put all their eggs in one basket with McInnes and there appears to be no clear indication of who will be their next manager.

It is a club with so much history but presently there seems to be no plan in place to take the club forward and compete with Celtic again.

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