Welcome to the forum.
What you describe is not uncommon with hydraulic clutches, but not normal.
Rangers have closer tolerances than other systems so any small changes that wouldn't be noticed on other vehicles is noticed on Rangers.
You either have a new clutch disc or a little air in the system.
The way a clutch works:
The transmission and the gears are always connected to the rear wheels via output shaft and drive line, so are always spinning at the same speed as the rear wheels.
The flywheel and pressure plate are connected to the engine, so are always spinning at the same speed(RPM) as the engine.
The clutch disc is sandwiched between flywheel and pressure plate and it is connected to the input shaft of the transmission.
The pressure plate has powerful springs that push and hold clutch disc against flywheel.
When you press in the clutch pedal the slave cylinder expands and pushes on the pressure plate to relieve its pressure on the clutch disc, not "release" pressure, just relieve pressure, the pressure plate and flywheel are still spinning at engine RPM.
The throwout bearing allows slave to be stationary while applying pressure to spinning pressure plate.
If you are stopped then transmission and gears are at 0 RPMs
If engine is idling and trans is in Neutral then flywheel/pressure plate, clutch disc and input shaft are at 700RPM.
When you press the clutch pedal in pressure on the clutch disc is relieved but it and the input shaft have to come to a complete stop to shift into any gear because the gears are at 0 RPMs.
And clutch disc has to come to a complete stop while sandwiched between 2 discs rotating at 700 RPM.
When you shift into a gear the synchro for that gear contacts the gear first to "match" RPMs, that's the push back you feel in the shifter, the synchro has to slow the input shaft and clutch disc down to 0 RPMs before it can lock into gear.
When driving, "matching" RPMs is much faster because input and output shafts are both spinning.
1st gear is the hardest when shifting from Neutral, while stopped
New, thicker, clutch discs can take a few weeks to "break in" they are at the maximum edge of the pressure relief the slave can do at full expansion.
Air compresses, hydraulic fluid(brake fluid) doesn't, so if there is any air in the clutch system then it compresses when clutch pedal is pushed in and the slave cylinder doesn't expand it's full length and that causes "rubbing" of the clutch disc by flywheel and pressure plate, making it harder for the synchro to slow it down to 0 RPMs
One other thing that can happen is the Pilot Bearing wearing out.
Pilot bearing supports the input shaft at the center of the flywheel.
The pilot bearing allows the input shaft/clutch disc to spin at a different RPM than the flywheel.
So when shifting into 1st while stopped the outer edge of pilot bearing is spinning at 700RPM and the inner edge needs to go down to 0 RPMs
If it wears out it can make slowing down the input shaft/clutch disc harder because it is imparting flywheel RPMs to input shaft.
Last edited by RonD; 04-28-2016 at 12:59 PM.