Ahead of the recent winter break, Rabbi Matondo knew the upcoming months in his Rangers career would be crucial.

Following a frustrating debut season at Ibrox, the Welshman had started to show flashes of quality, including a memorable goal against PSV in the Champions League play-off round. All while seeing injury disrupt progress and the in-form Abdallah Sima continue to occupy his favoured spot on the left wing.

Sima’s inclusion at the African Cup of Nations provided Matondo with a clear pathway to minutes in his preferred position when Rangers returned to action - a rarity since moving to Scotland from Schalke in the summer of 2022.

The winger, in a bid to arrive at Rangers’ January training camp in La Manga ready to hit the ground running, wanted to exhaust all options and make the second half of the season count. He was put in touch with Saul Isaksson-Hurst, an individual skill development specialist holding two decades of coaching experience and expertise.

Isaksson-Hurst works with several Premier League players including Chelsea’s Noni Madueke, Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson, Bournemouth’s Max Aarons and Folarin Balogun - who moved from the Gunners to AS Monaco last summer after 21 goals in Ligue 1 the previous campaign. A consultant specialising in individual technique development, Isaksson-Hurst’s work with some of the brightest young attacking talents in the country sees him regularly share clips of training footage replicated during games.

Since first working with Madueke when the young winger was plying his trade with PSV, prior to his £33million transfer to Chelsea last year, Isaksson-Hurst has regularly joined the player on holiday in Greece and Marbella to get in some extra sessions during the off-season.

The idea? Sessions should be representative of a game until you can’t get it wrong. To practise game-changing moments repeatedly and hone game-changing skillsets. Individual coaches are increasingly common in football as high-level athletes seek to expose marginal gains and maximise their super-strengths.

While some in the coaching community would argue unopposed finishing doesn’t replicate in-game scenarios, Isaksson-Hurst’s work with elite players focuses on refining game-changing qualities frequently to ensure when they do arise - it’s muscle memory to take them.

Matondo's time spent time in London with Isaksson-Hurst during the January winter break was slightly less exotic but equally impactful. While extra work surrounding his finishing has taken place in-house too, the winger’s impact since January has been impressive amongst further injury frustration. Culminating in a goal to save a point and potentially Rangers’ title hopes during yesterday’s 3-3 Old Firm draw, with a stunning injury-time strike from range.

Matondo’s 2024 has been promising, with four goals coming in at one every 74 minutes in the Scottish Premiership. He’d sealed the points as a substitute the previous week with a similar goal against Hibs.

“Rabbi contacted me during the winter break as he wanted to work on a few things before he went on the warm weather training break,” Isaksson-Hurst tells the Rangers Review.

“Rabbi has a lot of quality obviously. For me, it was just about trying to tweak those things and make him as effective as possible. Obviously working a lot in wide areas and in and around the final third with lots of shooting and finishing.

“He has so much potential because he has a lot of quality and is willing to work very hard. Specifically, I was really impressed with his mentality.

“Like any player at that level, my job is to break down the position and try and find those game-changing moments and then work on those and practice them so that he can’t get them wrong.

“Since that winter break when he’s had the run in the team, I’ve been really happy for Rabbi. He’s been working really hard and he deserves it. He’s a top player with a fantastic mentality to match.”

The Welsh international's strike to seal a point yesterday was certainly a game-changing moment that captured his strengths. Slowing the game to a standing start and isolating himself against a fellow winger, Matondo shimmied to chop inside quicker than Yang could react before unleashing a curling effort at pace beyond a helpless Joe Hart.

“The goal was all about coming away from the defender at speed and then trying to get the quality on the ball to whip it over and around the keeper,” Isaksson-Hurst adds.

“You see a lot of similarities in his goal and that of Kevin de Bruyne’s against Crystal Palace on Saturday or Kobbie Mainoo’s against Liverpool on Sunday. It’s a really tough technique to finish with that quality from that area of the pitch.”

De Bruyne’s goal against Crystle Palace during the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday was an example Clement himself discussed with Matondo pre-match. That’s why the attacker made a beeline for the manager when the ball found the net, before the Belgian quickly shoved him back on in search of a winner.

“The gaffer asked me if I saw De Bruyne’s goal yesterday," Matondo explained post-match.

"We work a lot in training on cutting in and getting shots off, keeping it low in the corners. I said to him ‘Yeah, I did see De Bruyne’s goal’, but it wasn’t quite low in the corner the way he wants me to do it. He replied, 'When you get to that level of a player like De Bruyne, that’s basically his low corner, the top corner - You will get there maybe one day’. I told him I'd show him today!”

The similarities are uncanny as Matondo remained true to his word.

Matondo’s best season to date came in Belgium when on loan at Cercle Brugge. The Welshman, who starred in the Man City academy and was subject of a multi-million-pound move to the Bundesliga as a teenager, saw his talent unlocked. That spell included a man-of-the-match performance in a derby win in Clement’s final game in charge of rivals Club Brugge.

Miron Muslic, now the Cercle manager, also worked closely on Matondo's finishing. Encouraging him to find the low far corner and perfect the ‘Thierry Henry’ finish.

“With his weapon of pace, it’s a f****** nightmare for centre-backs. If you have Rabbi Matondo with confidence on the pitch, that for me is a Premier League profile,” Muslic said speaking recently to the Rangers Review.

“His best position? He needs to play in the left half-space because he is perfect at cutting inside. If you can get him receiving on that side with a full-back ready to cover him defensively but then also overlap, he will kill the full-back or centre-back. Rabbi is very agile not only over distance but also in these short one-on-ones over two to three metres because he’s so explosive.

“He is at his most comfortable cutting inside and has a very good finish on the inside of his right foot that we worked on at Cercle. I called it the Thierry Henry finish, finding the far pocket instead of aiming for the top corner."

READ MORE: Analysing Rabbi Matondo with his ex-coach - 'This a Premier League profile'

“For me, it was one of the things which Rabbi missed before from his game,” Clement reflected during his post-match press conference.

“He had chances to shoot and show his qualities and missed too many opportunities like that. It is really difficult to defend with his speed and agility, but there needs to be an end product and that’s crucial.

“He is now understanding this part of the game. The game is about so many details. It’s our task as a coaching staff to teach them details they never thought about before.”

Football is about details and fine margins. Picking when to shoot, where to shoot, how to shoot. Striking the balance between taking a risk in a situation like yesterday's and risking a shot going over the bar and relieving pressure.

Matondo and Rangers were rewarded for his desire to do more and push the small margins in his favour on this occasion. On a day when the home side so often lacked quality, Matondo’s end product saved the day.