On the face of things, all was well for Rangers last night.

Another three points, scores returned to even at the top of the table and a must-win game won. However, there was more than a tinge of frustration walking out of Ibrox for many after last night’s 3-1 win over Ross County given one more goal was required to top the table. 

While nothing is won in February it was viewed in some quarters as a physiological blow Rangers failed to dish out. 

On the other hand, perspective is vital. This was, a sloppy concession aside, an excellent, relentless performance. To say Rangers created plenty would be understating matters entirely. To only score three from the momentum, ascendancy and dominance enjoyed felt exceptional. So was it?

Was this a one-off game that will rarely be repeated, did Ross County goalkeeper George Wickens indeed enjoy the game of his life, or was this a sign that Rangers’ finishing will come back to bite them in the title race? Here's what the data says.

The highest xG total since?

The game’s trendline shows not only the volume of chances created by Philippe Clement’s side but the consistency of efforts on goal.

The hosts' xG total of 4.31 was the second-highest of the season, bettered only by a 5-1 win away at Dundee where Rangers amassed 5.81xG. Their late 2-1 win over Hearts in Clement’s third game in charge saw them end with a close 3.55xG. This was the highest xG number fashioned by the Ibrox side at home since managing 6.3xG against Aberdeen in a 4-1 win late on in Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s tenure.

For context, the home side had averaged an xG of 1.97 at Ibrox before last night’s meeting with County.

If you need a quick reminder, xG simply values the likelihood of a chance turning into a goal based on a hefty back catalogue of examples and multiple factors (such as shot location, goalkeeper position, defenders between the goal and the ball and more).

The reason it’s helpful? While a shot can be pretty non-descript - is it a shot from range or an open goal from two yards out? - xG provides us with a better grasp of the quality of opportunity created by a team.

Enough 'shots' to win two matches?

A glance at the home side’s shot map demonstrates two things: Rangers had a LOT of efforts (43 to be exact) while also attempting a lot from range. 24, over half, came from a distance of 18 yards or more.

While these chances can of course go in, the probability of a strike from range finding the net is lower. Rangers had 43 shots but that’s not to say they had 43 clear-cut chances. Of course, a closer look at the value of each opportunity shows that there were more than enough moments for more goals.

Cyriel Dessers amassed 2.12xG from 12 shots on his own while scoring twice, Oscar Cortes’ 0.71xG from the bench shows he could’ve been more clinical, Tom Lawrence and James Tavernier had six efforts a piece coming in at 0.37 and 0.31xG respectively. 

Tavernier assisted all three goals, with eight key passes throughout.

Here's a list of all the shots attempted by Clement's side and their chance value.

That's a lot of shots...

So, was it about poor finishing?

Yes and no.

Dessers quite literally missed the hard ones and scored the simple ones last night. His two goals derived from 0.11 and 0.10xG opportunities in a first-half where the 29-year-old hit the post after taking the ball down and outplaying his marker from close range (0.43xG), saw one cleared off the line following a deep cross when he ought to have, maybe, squared the ball to Rabbi Matondo (0.46xG) and rose to place a header wide shortly before his second after a lovely back-post dink from Todd Cantwell (0.49xG).

Outright proof Rangers should have signed another No.9! Or, is it? Dessers still got a double from 2.12xG and while that’s a slight underperformance, the fact he has 10 league goals from 10.66xG is proof that these things tend to level themselves out.

Ok, it’s evident he’s likely not a forward who will outperform his chances at a ruthless level. The Nigerian will, however, keep going and keep going showing a mental fortitude to shoot after missing that’s enabled his recovery at Ibrox.

Cortes, again bright from the bench, was guilty of passing up two good opportunities. Forcing George Wickens into one excellent stop after working his way to goal and placing another wide.

Fabio Silva hitting the goalkeeper when one-v-one and Tavernier skying over from 12 yards after a Ross McCausland cutback are other moments that spring to mind. When Rangers did find the target, there was often someone in the way.

Just how good was Wickens?

If it felt to you like Ross County’s on-loan stopper was having the game of his life, the data shows he probably was. 

To start with, Wickens made an outstanding 19 saves which, while we don’t have a comparison for, it’s safe to say is quite a lot. The only detail that will perhaps frustrate Clement is that so many of those shots were in central areas and not hit in the corners.

That’s not to say Wickens was performing to an average expectation. His Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) was 2.09. What is GSAA? In short: “How many goals did the keeper save/concede versus expectation (post-shot xG faced)?”

Don’t worry if your head is spinning at all of these acronyms. Effectively all this number is doing is taking the Post-Shot xG - a more advanced xG metric that looks at the likelihood of a chance becoming a goal once the shot has been taken - and judging how many goals a goalkeeper might have been worth on any given day or season.

Basically, it’s outright proof that Wickens was the difference between this game ending 3-1 or 5-1. This game was more about excellent goalkeeping than poor finishing. 

For context, in a very different environment, Jack Butland has a GSAA of 1.97 in the league overall this season. Give or take the English stopper has performed above expectations by a couple of goals. Of course, that's not suggesting Wickens is a better stopper, Butland has only been forced into 46 saves in the league all season, a total his opposite number almost made up half of alone last night.

While Wickens’ overall GSAA heading into this game was -2.66 the young Fulham stopper redeemed himself with a night he’ll do well to top throughout his career.

So, what did we learn?

It’s important to caveat firstly that Rangers were very, very good against Ross County with the ball. Nothing was won or lost in the league last night. Had this been the final day of the season and a goal stopped the league title from coming back to Ibrox, the narrative would of course be different.

Does this not show that such an eventuality is a possibility? Perhaps yes, although Philippe Clement chose to understandably focus on the fact that a centimetre of two should not take away from his team’s levels on the night or distract from this group's progress.

"We had wave after wave of attacks, good possession play, good runs together, good tempo, good shots but we had a goalkeeper on the other side who had an evening of his life," he said.

"It could've been much more today but, as a manager, you need to be happy with a 3-1 victory because I cannot ask more of my players than what they are doing now.

"I think our finishing was also not that bad if you have 23 shots on goal but it's about centimetres. We can do better in that way. We can still raise our level in that way to be more precise but those are the next steps to take. I think the team have taken a lot of steps already."

Had George Wickens performed at an expected level, this game would’ve been far more emphatic. Had Dessers managed more from his array of first-half chances, Cortes have found the net from the bench or one of many shots from range drifted slightly to a corner, it may have been a night to top up the goal difference.

Or, to play devil's advocate, had a more clinical finisher been in the squad could this have been all the more convincing?  

We'll find out in May. Most importantly, Rangers have won their games in hand to return joint-top in a title race that is very much on.