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Ally McCoist holds on to his Firm belief

By Ronnie Esplin

Ally McCoist insists he has no fears about being able to raise his Rangers players for Wednesday's Old Firm game despite their dreadful preparation for the clash against Celtic.

The Scottish champions had hoped to strengthen their grasp on top spot in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League ahead of the trip to Parkhead, but instead slumped to a 2-1 defeat at St Mirren on Christmas Eve.

Rangers could also be without Lee McCulloch and Dorin Goian on Wednesday night, after both players were shown red cards against Saints.

However, McCoist is likely to appeal McCulloch's dismissal for violent conduct and, with an appeal hearing unlikely to take place before Thursday, the midfielder could still feature in the derby.

McCoist insists there is no chance of the rest of his players dwelling on what was a miserable day all round for Rangers ahead of the highly-anticipated meeting with the Hoops.

He said: "I can assure you we will be ready for the game, I can guarantee you that.

"It's going to be a tough game but we will be ready and the players won't need lifted for that one because it's a big, big game."

Although disappointed by the two red cards, McCoist believes he has enough options to fill the gap.

He added: "I won't lie to you, it's not ideal. But we've got one or two other things we can do. We've got Kyle Bartley and Kirk Broadfoot and Davie Weir and boys like that.

"As disappointing as it is, and we would rather not have that situation, it's not something that we can't handle."

From a Rangers lead of 15 points at one stage in November, the gap between the Old Firm rivals now sits at just a single point, with the title race impossible to call.

When it was put to McCoist that the momentum is now with Celtic, he said: "The truth of the matter is I would rather be a point ahead than a point behind. Of that there is no doubt.

"I take where you are coming from, Celtic are on a good run of form at the moment in terms of victories. But it counts for absolutely nothing."

Rangers had started positively against St Mirren when Lee Wallace opened the scoring with his first goal for the club.

But McCulloch's red card proved to be a turning point and Saints hit back through goals from Aaron Mooy and Paul McGowan just before half-time.

McCoist said: "I thought we were very comfortable at 1-0 to be honest. In the second half I thought the effort and commitment to go and get an equaliser was there for all to see.

"We had one or two chances where we could have got a deserved equaliser. I don't have any problem with the commitment the boys gave us in the second half.

"One or two decisions we could have made better as players and as a team but in terms of the attitude, no, it was fine."

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