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Lafferty backs McCoist at Rangers

By Graham Luney

Kyle Lafferty has jumped to the defence of under-fire boss Ally McCoist but he knows that only positive results can stop the wave of criticism coming in the manager’s direction.

Rangers slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Maribor in the first leg of their Europa League play-off and the pressure is well and truly on the Scottish champions at Ibrox tonight (7.30pm).

After that shock loss, McCoist issued a passionate rallying call to his troops and the players lifted morale with a 3-0 victory at Motherwell — Kesh man Lafferty netting one of the goals.

Sometimes players need a loud wake-up call to spring to life and now Lafferty hopes the hosts can rise to the occasion tonight.

The Northern Ireland striker said: “I'm not going to tell you exactly what the gaffer said to the squad, but he said the right things.

“And we responded by going out and giving him the performance he deserved against Motherwell.

“Now we want to go one better against Maribor. Rangers are expected to pull a big performance out of the bag every time we play but I really feel we can score the goals required against the Slovenians,” he said.

“They're a good side going forward but we can get a win.

“Rangers' game is supposed to be about fighting for the ball and holding on to it while keeping clean sheets.

“We did none of those things against Maribor and that's why the gaffer had to have a word with us.”

Slovenia football has taken tremendous strides forward since Rangers won 6-1 on aggregate against Maribor in 2001 but the Ibrox men are hungry to avoid a European catastrophe.

McCoist is feeling the Gers hotseat slightly uncomfortable at the moment but Lafferty is backing the former Scotland international to mastermind a revival.

“The Motherwell game was a test of character for the players,” he added. “It was far from the best I've ever played for Rangers. But just to be on the team sheet meant it was a good day for me.

“But the manager shouldn't have been feeling any strain because he had done nothing wrong.

“We're the ones who have let him down.

“The gaffer's clearly learned a lot and he will do well for Rangers, there's no doubt about that.”

Meanwhile, Rangers confirmed that Uefa have rejected Maribor's protest over Carlos Bocanegra's eligibility for the Europa League play-offs.

The United States captain made his debut in the first leg in Slovenia, having signed from St Etienne the night before and been granted international clearance.

However, the defender was unable to feature against Motherwell at the weekend because he did not obtain a visa to work in the UK until Monday.

Maribor questioned whether Bocanegra was eligible to play in last week's match but their complaint has been dismissed by Uefa.

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