Monday night will be the fourth match between Rangers and Forfar Athletic this season. Rangers crushed Forfar at Ibrox but have struggled in Forfar. Two close matches have resulted in a 0-1 victory and an extra time defeat to exit the league cup.
McCoist and his players are expecting a tough match and there are a few reasons to agree. Both visits to Forfar have been close and the hosts are in good form. Recent victories against Stenhousemuir and Brechin City saw margins of 3 and 4 goals respectively. If the match reports in The Courier are anything to go by Forfar have played some nice football to earn these victories. In addition Forfar have lost only one league match in 5 where Ayr United required the combined efforts of Kyle McAusland and Kevin Kyle to beat Rab Douglas.
Rangers have not had the best month leading up to this match. Dropping points to Stranraer was the lowest point of the season since defeat to Forfar. Since then an enjoyable win over Dunfermline is a stark contrast to the three matches that followed. Despite a return to winning form and shutouts Rangers have not been convincing overall. The visit to Airdrie was stressful towards the end. The East Fife match felt like it could easily have ended up like boxing day against Stranraer.
The first eleven is less settled than it has been at times this season. Players have returned from injury while others have picked up injuries and suspensions. Smith, Hegarty, Hutton, Perry and Clark are all injured although only Clark would likely be considered if fit. Black and Peralta are both suspended leaving a spot to fill in defensive midfield. MacLeod and Templeton have both returned to training after injury and will be considered for a starting place. I suspect that we'll see the following lineup.
Forfar have a few names that we can recognise from the distant past in the S.P.L. Rab Douglas has played the last five matches in goal. Marvin Andrews has not featured since losing 6-1 at Ibrox and I don't think we will see him on Monday. Journeyman Darren Dods, however, is playing every week. Dale Hilson is on loan from Dundee United and has proved to be a goal threat. A couple of other players to note are the tall striker Chris Templeman who, like Dods, plays every week and Gavin Swankie who has returned from a spell out of the team. That is Gavin Swankie who scored two to knock us out of the League Cup. You are also likely to see Dick Campbell's son Iain playing in defense.
All of the above shows that this already has the potential to be a tough match even before we consider this week's off-field drama. The players appear to have been professional throughout the season and show little or no sign that the constant debate surrounding the boardroom has an effect on them. The recent 'conceptual discussion' will be a greater test though. I'm not sure how the board see it but I think we'll need 100% effort rather than a mere 85%.