After another week of enough off-field Rangers debate to even tire out the most obsessed of Celtic fans, we once again get to turn our attentions to the Rangers team instead of the boardroom. Unfortunately, given we only just played Dumbarton away last Saturday, there may be a somewhat repetitive nature to this short preview also!
The good news is that last weekend, we did beat Ian Murray's side reasonably easily. After a somewhat slow start, we adjusted to the squally conditions and soon took control of the match. Indeed, even the disappointment of a missed McCulloch penalty was quickly over-written by an opening Kenny Miller goal with the striker giving a man of the match performance overall. Two further strikes in the second period from Lee Wallace and Kris Boyd ensured a comfortable afternoon and allowed us to approach the midweek League Cup tie with St Johnstone in confident enough fashion. Another pleasing win on Tuesday means that early next year we'll truly be able to judge just how prepared we are for any future promotion to the Scottish Premiership.
Tomorrow though, our attention moves to a fourth competition in as many games with the team making its 2014/15 début into the Scottish Cup. So far at least we remain in all the tournaments and I suspect that should still be the case by the time we settle down to our Saturday evening of Strictly and X-Factor. Arguably the only reason we won't move into the next round will be complacency so it will be interesting to see if the manager opts for the same team that despatched Saints on live TV.
One player who definitely won't make it will be the unfortunate Steve Simonsen who, after two fine saves to keep the scoreline blank, then almost knocked himself out via a collision with the post whilst keeping out a St Johnstone header. This will mean a first ever Rangers start in his two spells at the club for Lee Robinson. The 28 year old Englishman didn't have much to do after coming on in midweek but has shown in his five years away from Rangers that he's a very capable goalkeeper - including a shut-out against us in the Challenge Cup Final last season. He'll be keen to show what he can do tomorrow - though hopefully not as keen as when he almost cost us a goal when rushing out of his box unnecessarily on Tuesday night!
In front of him, barring injury, the defence should be the same as it's been in recent games. The combination of Foster, McGregor, McCulloch and Wallace may not be the ideal back-four of most fans but they've been solid enough of late. One does wonder how much more effective they could be with an on-form Mohsni or Zaliukas instead of Jig though?
Moving into midfield and, once again barring any unforeseen injuries or resting of players, the usual four-man unit of Aird, Law, Black and Macleod should start the match. It may well be though that, after a noteworthy performance in the corresponding match last week, Steven Smith starts on the left with one of Law, Macleod or Aird rested. Other options include David Templeton or Dean Shiels who would eagerly slot into the side.
Up front may be the main area of the team where we could see some changes. Attack is one part of the team where the manager actually has a few luxuries at the moment with not only his first choice pairing of Boyd and Miller capable of scoring goals but their immediate deputies of Daly and Clark showing up well when called upon. Consequently, it wouldn't surprise me to see Boyd drop out for Daly, though, like in defence, I'm sure I wouldn't be the only bear interested in seeing Miller and Clark play together up front for a game or two. Although quite similar in style, perhaps the extra mobility, work-rate and pace would enable us to get in behind teams more easily.
In conclusion, no matter what XI the manager does opt for, we should have the quality to comfortably win tomorrow. I've no doubt the Sons will try their best to nullify our threat once more but there will be no excuse if we don't see Rangers name in the hat for the Fourth Round draw. In any case we should enjoy tomorrow's match as after that it we'll all be back to discussing Ashley, Llambias and King instead of McCoist, McCulloch and Boyd. Hopefully at some point that will change but in the meantime, enjoy the game!
Probable team (4-4-2):