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Rangers get green light to field Lee McCulloch against Celtic

By Ronnie Esplin

Rangers midfielder Lee McCulloch is free to play in Wednesday's Old Firm clash with Celtic after the club appealed against his sending off in Saturday's Clydesdale Bank Premier League loss to St Mirren.

McCulloch was shown a straight red card for violent conduct after catching Saints' Graham Carey with an elbow.

The Scottish FA will consider the appeal on January 5, meaning the Scotland international is free to be selected at Parkhead on Wednesday night.

A club statement read: “Manager Ally McCoist's initial reaction was that the decision was harsh and after watching the incident again the club has submitted its appeal to the association.

“As things stand, McCulloch will be free to play against Celtic in Wednesday's crucial Old Firm clash at Parkhead although Dorin Goian will be suspended.

“With the SFA not due to hear the appeal until January 5 at the earliest, the midfielder is also available for the meeting with Motherwell three days earlier.”

Rangers were leading 1-0 when McCulloch was sent off by referee Steven McLean.

The Buddies responded to win 2-1, with Goian shown a red card for two bookable offences late on.

But Rangers defender Carlos Bocanegra believes there will be plenty of time for further twists in the title race no matter the result of Wednesday's Old Firm derby.

Rangers, who won the first derby meeting of the season 4-2 at Ibrox, are seeking to bounce back from Saturday's loss and avoid being overtaken at the summit before the turn of the year.

United States international Bocanegra said: “Every Old Firm game is huge and I'm looking forward to testing ourselves against our biggest rivals.

“Any time you have a chance to get a result against them, it's a big opportunity and there was a lot of energy around the club and a spring in all out steps after we won the last derby in September. We want to experience that sort of thing again.

Bocanegra insists it is important to approach the fixture calmly, despite a run of three wins in six games.

He added: “It is fun for the media and the fans to build up because it's an exciting game but it's up to us to prepare well mentally rather than get caught up in that.

“We can't let all the hype get into our heads before the match because all the emotions will be there on game day.”

Former Rangers manager Walter Smith hopes the Old Firm fixture can help successor Ally McCoist and his team rediscover the consistency that took them clear at the top of the table.

Smith said: “I think an Old Firm game brings out the best in a team.

“They have had a fantastic level of consistency in the SPL and have been doing a great job there.

“While I know from speaking to Alistair that they haven't played at their best over the last few matches, an Old Firm game can maybe bring that out in them.”

Being at the league summit when the calendar clicks over on New Year's Eve can be advantageous, according to Smith.

He added: “If you can get in to the new year and find yourself in a good position in the championship then you can look forward and psychologically it's a big thing.”

Belfast Telegraph


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