How easy it is to go from villain to hero – Rangers ace Nathan Patterson will know all about that after his stunning return to action against Royal Antwerp.
The 19-year-old was in the ‘Rangers Five’ quintet that broke covid-19 protocols after attending a house party on February 14.
He was forced into isolation as rumours swirled around his Ibrox future but he bounced back in emphatic fashion on Thursday after being surprisingly named in the matchday squad alongside fellow shamed Gers ace Bongani Zungu.
Leon Balogun began the match at right-back but after picking up a yellow card and looking uncomfortable dealing with Antwerp’s flying wing-back Jordan Lukaku, he was hauled off at half-time with Patterson brought on in his place.
If there was any consternation at this change among Bears this was quickly removed by utter jubilation at what followed.
It took Patterson less than a minute to burst forward and score his first Rangers goal to seemingly put the tie beyond the reach of Antwerp.
But it wasn’t just his goal that earned plaudits as he delivered a brilliantly assured performance at both ends of the pitch.
According to Wyscout Patterson won 100% of his defensive duels (6/6) in just 48 minutes of action after coming on as a half-time substitute for Balogun.
None of the other five Gers players to complete at least five defensive duels recorded a success rate of above 63% [Balogun] while Borna Barisic only made two on the other flank.
He also made two clearances which is a tally matched only by Filip Helander who played the full 90 minutes, in addition to two interceptions.
Patterson also made five recoveries which all came in his own half – Balogun only made one in the opening period.
An 82% pass accuracy (nine completed from 11 attempts) also showed his comfort on the ball and hit three successful forward passes (from four attempts – 75%).
His goal was his only shot, showing an unnerving accuracy.
With James Tavernier expected to be out for a few more weeks this is a great chance for Patterson to stake his claim and show he is worthy of being first-choice deputy.
Balogun shifted across admirably in the first-leg against Antwerp and Sunday’s 4-1 Premiership win v Dundee United but he looked uneasy against a powerful and tricky runner in Lukaku on Thursday and showed his vulnerability.
Patterson is a much more natural Tavernier replacement as exemplified by his perfect finish just seconds into his introduction.
The Gers captain is our top scorer in the Premiership and his absence might be keenly felt at both ends of the field, but on the Antwerp evidence Patterson has the capabilities to cover for him and put his ‘Rangers Five’ shame to bed.
In other Rangers news, Jason Cundy says the Gers are better than this top four Premier League side.