Rangers slump to defeat at St Johnstone as pressure mounts on Van Bronckhorst

Pressure piled on the Rangers manager, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, after a shock 2-1 defeat by St Johnstone left them seven points behind Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

Rangers dominated the first half at McDiarmid Park but found themselves behind in the 41st minute, when 24-year-old wing-back James Brown thundered in a stunning drive from 25 yards for his first senior goal.

The former Rangers striker Nicky Clark grabbed a second in the 62nd minute, and while James Tavernier reduced the deficit in the 73rd minute, the visitors could not find an equaliser. Seething away fans vented their frustration at the final whistle after Rangers’ first defeat in Perth for 12 years.

There had seemed little prospect of an upset despite an ongoing injury crisis at Ibrox. Van Bronckhorst was glad to welcome back centre-back Ben Davies from a groin complaint while midfielder John Lundstram was back again after a one-game ban.

The Saints manager, Callum Davidson, revealed a sickness bug had affected his players, with captain Liam Gordon missing. Elliott Parish took over in goal from the injured Remi Matthews, with Ross Sinclair on the bench after being recalled from his loan spell at Montrose.

Rangers started the game strongly and in the sixth minute Parish had to save Malik Tillman’s effort from a tight angle following Tavernier’s cross. Parish then dived low to his left to push a decent Lundstram drive round the post for a corner. In the 11th minute, Antonio Colak was sent through on goal by Tillman but veteran defender Andrew Considine ensured the Croatia striker did not get a shot on goal.

As the siege on the St Johnstone goal continued, Rangers winger Fashion Sakala leapt above defender Adam Montgomery to head a Borna Barisic corner off the crossbar. With half-time approaching, the home side took the lead after a mix up between Lundstram and Sakala gave possession away.

Stevie May’s shot from the edge of the box was blocked out to Brown, who thundered a drive high past Allan McGregor for a landmark goal. It was the third successive league game in which Rangers had conceded first, and the hosts doubled their lead just past the hour mark after Alfredo Morelos and Scott Arfield had come on for Rangers.

May beat 18-year-old defender Leon King on the byline and crossed for Clark, who got in front of Barisic at the near post to flick the ball past McGregor. The travelling fans behind the goal immediately turned their ire on van Bronckhorst, while Lundstram sent a left-footed shot from the edge of the box off the outside of post.

Tavernier got Rangers back in the game with a shot from the edge of the box after Considine headed a corner away. The visitors piled on the pressure, Lundstram hitting the bar from 25 yards out before Parish saved a late Tavernier header. Rangers kept pushing but ran out of time – so too, perhaps, has Van Bronckhorst.