Kyle Lafferty to answer Rangers' call
Ally McCoist admits Rangers have to find a greater attacking edge when they face Celtic for the sixth time this season in tomorrow's Co-operative Insurance Cup final — and the pressure is on him, manager Walter Smith and the rest of the coaching staff to find it.
Rangers have lost three out of four Old Firm games in 2011 and were pegged back by 10-man Celtic in a Scottish Cup draw at Ibrox in the other encounter.
But Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty may be given the chance to shoot down the Hoops at Hampden Park after recovering from a knee injury sustained in the 1-0 Europa League defeat by PSV Eindhoven on Thursday night.
The Gers posed an attacking threat when the Kesh man was on the pitch and they may turn to the former Burnley man again tomorrow.
Lafferty’s injury is not as bad as first feared when he was stretchered off on Thursday and, after fighting fit following a bout of tonsilitis, he is desperate to play in the glamour cup final.
Smith's men lined up in a 5-4-1 system at Celtic Park in the most recent encounter between the old enemies, a 1-0 Scottish Cup loss, although they ended the match with a rather different formation after having two players sent off before El-Hadji Diouf saw red after the final whistle.
The defensive system helped Rangers reduce the arrears from the previous encounter, when they were emphatically beaten 3-0, but McCoist knows that damage limitation is not good enough in an Old Firm final.
However, he is confident that Rangers will carry more attacking menace with Nikica Jelavic and Steven Naismith both back from injury to supplement the squad that lost at Parkhead.
With Lafferty making a miracle recovery to strengthen their attacking options, Rangers will be confident they can hurt their opponents.
When asked how Rangers can regain the ascendancy in the fixture, McCoist said: “What needs to change I think is we have to be more of an attacking threat.
“I think we were handicapped slightly in the last game with Jelavic and Lafferty and boys like that missing. They are big attack-minded players for us.
“That forced our hand a big bit in terms of selection and, to a certain degree, tactics.
“We must and I think we will be a far bigger threat to Celtic than we were in the last game. We've got to be.”
Naismith returned to action following a hamstring injury when he came on at half-time in the Europa League defeat.
“You saw the difference when wee Naisy came on,” McCoist said. “I'm not saying it was all down to him but he certainly made a big difference with his energy, enthusiasm and talent. We certainly have to put more pressure on Celtic.”
Naismith was introduced for David Weir with Rangers trailing as Smith moved from a 5-4-1 to a 4-5-1.
Rangers improved dramatically on a poor first-half showing without being able to capitalise on their pressure.
McCoist looks set to unleash a more attacking team when he succeeds Smith in the summer and he will canvas for a positive approach tomorrow.
McCoist, the club's record goalscorer, said: “You saw the difference in the halfs, it looked like two different teams and, with the greatest respect, I think we as a management team have to shoulder the vast majority of the responsibility and blame, if you like, for maybe the way we set the team out in the first half.
“It's all ifs and buts, but in an ideal world if it's nothing-each at half-time, we can maybe change it and go for the goal.
“It wasn't to be, we lost an early goal. We should maybe have changed it earlier.
“I'm always half-full rather than half-empty but I was very, very encouraged by the second-half performance. We should definitely have had a couple of penalties. I'm not moaning about it, that's foot
ball. But in terms of the way the boys went about their business in the second half and put them under pressure and made things happen, I was delighted with the second half.”
Meanwhile, McCoist revealed the police had a “very relaxed” talk with his players to remind them of their responsibilities ahead of the cup final. McCoist appeared to feel there was little need for the interjection despite the volatile Scottish Cup clash against Celtic earlier this month, when three Rangers players were sent off.
Strathclyde Police requested a summit with the clubs, the Scottish Government and football authorities after Celtic's 1-0 win at Parkhead, in a bid to tackle the off-field problems that escalate when the teams meet.
McCoist revealed an officer talked them through the conduct expected from players, coaching staff, supporters, police and stewards.