Rangers new kid Bartley keeps heat on Celtic
St Mirren 0 Rangers 1: Rangers manager Walter Smith admits their narrow 1-0 win over St Mirren was crucial to their title hopes as he bids to steer his side through an injury crisis.
The Scottish champions were without eight players for the trip to Paisley and were only able to name six substitutes, including under-19s striker Kane Hemmings who was on the bench for the first time.
A first-half goal from Kyle Bartley was enough to secure the victory to take Rangers back within five points of SPL leaders Celtic, with two games in hand.
And Smith wants more of the same from his depleted ranks against Kilmarnock next Sunday in a bid to keep the pressure on the Hoops.
He said: “When you get a situation like the one we have where we are a number of games behind Celtic at the moment, it's important to get the win.
“From our own point of view, we have injury problems at the moment.
“As far as the league is concerned, this game and next Sunday's game are vitally important for us in the sense that, after that, I would hope to see quite a number of our injured players coming back.
“So it was good to get a win.”
The winner from Bartley was his first goal for Rangers after joining on loan from Arsenal in January and Smith has been impressed with the young defender so far.
He said: “He has had a fair amount of football at Sheffield United in the first half of the season so it's slightly easier for him to come in, although it is slightly more awkward for him on that side of the pitch than it is on his more natural right side.
“He's 19 and he looks like he will be a good player, with a good future. He has done well since he came in for us.
“When you are only 1-0 up at the end of games, it's always a little bit nervy but I'm pleased that we won it in the end.
“There weren't a great deal of opportunities for either side so we are just pleased that we managed to win because it's always a difficult game here. It's a pleasing one for ourselves.”
Next up for Rangers is a Europa League last-16 clash against PSV Eindhoven on Thursday and Smith is not expecting too much good news on the injury front ahead of the trip to Holland.
He said: “We might have Vladimir Weiss back but he is probably the only one. He's just got a badly bruised foot and I would hope that would settle a little bit.
“But he's probably the only one who will be back on Thursday. We have a depleted group but we just get on with it.”
Saints boss Danny Lennon refused to read too much into Rangers' injury woes, insisting they still had enough quality to cover.
He said: “They still had very recognisable names in their starting XI and when they bring players in, they are guys with European experience.
“I actually felt the ones who would cause us the most problems would be the fringe ones.
“They are the ones who want to play in the cup finals, they are the ones who want to play in the big games in Europe and in the rest of the campaign to come.”
But he did believe the narrow defeat against the Scottish champions was a missed opportunity for the Buddies, who are still not safe from relegation.
He added: “I thought throughout the game — and even prior to the game — that we would get something.
“We are disappointed with the outcome, not getting any points on the board.”