Quietly throughout the season, Rangers have been evolving tactically and yesterday’s 3-0 win over St Mirren provided further evidence.

Although nothing was riding on this game, it offered another interesting case study as to how Michael Beale’s looking to introduce variety and an element of adaptability into his side’s attacking play.

We saw in last month's meeting with St Mitten, ending 5-2 to the Ibrox side, Beale utilise a box midfield and wide strikers which Todd Cantwell’s opener on that day perfectly epitomised.

Yesterday, they again “tried something new” with extra wide forwards and a ploy to unsettle the solid 5-3-2 block Stephen Robinson’s side often falls into.

“We felt we’d need lots of possession in the game and be patient, we tried something new with Fashion and Rabbi playing really high and wide and our full-backs flatter,” Beale commented afterwards.

“We felt we could come off the centre-backs and cause some problems in front and then our two wide players could run from out to in. That’s how the goal comes.”

Rangers lined up with Matondo and Sakala pinned wide to the touchline when they were circulating possession. Normally Beale's side only relies on the full-backs for width but yesterday they often played with 'double-width' - that is two players on the same wide line to entice the opposition to press and stretch their narrow midfield. 

Rangers wanted to arrive into the half-spaces, the area between the wing and centre, more often than building moves through this area as they usually do. 

Not including crosses, look at the passes Sakala and Matondo received (with red indicating success and yellow failure).

Any passes played to the forwards in the centre were usually long balls over the top that didn’t come off. Of the 46 passes the duo successfully received just 3 came in the centre channel of the pitch, compared to 10 in the half-spaces and 33 in the wide channels.

You can see the pitch split into the centre, wide lanes and half-spaces below.

Take a look at the game’s pass network, charting the average passing position of each player. Notice how deep Ridvan and Tavernier are situated, stationed to invite pressure and draw out the opposition. 

Rangers lined up with deep full-backs, patient possession and wide forwards making cutting vertical runs to try and create these channels of space down the side or ahead of the home defence. 

Look at the visitor's overall successful pass map from the game, they rarely operated in front of the box because that’s where St Mirren were most comfortable defending.

Rather, they played side-to-side, started their attacks out wide and then allowed Sakala's powerful running to capitalise by driving infield. 

See here with Tavernier on the ball, confronted by the left centre-midfielder Mark O’Hara, how wide Sakala and Ridvan are keeping the game on the opposite flank.

Normally under Beale, only the left back would hold width with every other player trying to overload the opposition. 

Or here, after Cantwell switches the ball to the right, Tavernier and Matondo have kept the game wide on that side, with the attacker given a chance to run off the outside centre-back in behind.

All throughout the first 25 minutes, the visitors played a similar game of deep circulation, popping the ball side to side and waiting for their opening.

This wasn't Rangers passing for passing's sake, but an intentional tactic to move the opposition and manipulate space. Both of Sakala's goals showed that to be the case.

Beale turned away in frustration after this passage of play, making a motion to his bench that seemed to suggest his side should be making curved runs from the side, not going over the top. With Sakala and Matondo running over the top onto a straight ball, the defensive task became too simple for St Mirren.

The visitors couldn't be so obvious when trying to utilise either attacker's pace, as the first goal would show.

Look at the sequence of Sakala's strike. Before Ridvan plays a cutting through ball into Sakala, his team have again moved the ball side to side, invited pressure and awaited an opening.

This time, the left-back played his side’s first pass through the opposition's defensive line.

Notice Keanu Baccus, circled, isn't able to stop the left-back because of the way Rangers have moved St Mirren to the other flank moments previously. The midfielder is forced to recover over and Rangers have a two-vs-one out wide.

This means that Ridvan has time to play a ball down the side to Sakala, who can make that outside to in run by dragging the wing-back Marcus Fraser wide and then darting into space.

Sakala starts wide to maximise the gap he can run into between right wing-back and right centre-back. 

The Zambian is front-facing and breaking into a sprint while his man remains side-on, allowing him to quickly accelerate and maximise the space on show.

This is a perfect example of how you can use pace against a deep defence, largely because it's not obvious and grants the attacker a head start.

Rangers Review:

The game's second goal again derived from a Ridvan pass into the feet of Sakala. This time, as the ball's worked wide to the left, notice that Ryan Jack's positioning is 'pinning' Baccus. 

Normally in possession, Jack would rotate into the left-back slot here. Why? It allows the full-back to rotate forward and provides the right-footed midfielder with better angles to play inside the pitch.

However, in this game, Rangers wanted to play passes on the outside more often than not.

Consequentially, as Jack started his rotation into the left-back slot he stopped, seeing that Ridvan was staying deep. He can be seen below pointing at Souttar to play the pass wide.

Rangers Review:

Knowing that Rangers had space and a two-vs-one on the left flank, Jack remains narrow to keep Baccus occupied. 

Rangers Review:

Although not running behind, Sakala can again use his pace and power. He's able to front up his man and attack facing forward, rather than receiving with a man at his back.

Why? Because again, this attack on the left comes after patient possession on the other flank and a quick switch, which has dragged St Mirren to one side and created space on the other. 

Moreover, because Baccus was initially dragged inside by Jack, the midfielder can't block Ridvan's pass or double up on Sakala, who darts into space to score. 

Rangers Review:

Both goals show the value of small margins when breaking down a defence - as they both originate from Baccus not being able to pressurise Ridvan quickly enough. 

It's one of the many tiny details that can decide matches.

As always, the task domestically for Rangers is to create space before creating chances, moving the ball to move the opposition.

Yesterday was a perfect example of a new ploy to achieve that. Beale's two forwards have played wide down the sides many times before this season, but the intent to find them in the manner they did yesterday hasn't been quite so dramatic. 

Expect his transfer business this summer to feature players capable of filling these wide attacking zones - it will be a crucial position going forwards.