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Rangers won’t get ahead of themselves: Smith

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Rangers manager Walter Smith

Rangers manager Walter Smith

Rangers manager Walter Smith

Walter Smith has refused to read too much into Rangers' emphatic advantage at the summit of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League after moving nine points clear of Celtic at the weekend.

An unconvincing win at Hamilton on Saturday was enough for the Scottish champions to extend their lead at the top as Celtic were held by bottom side Falkirk later in the day.

But Smith was quick to point out Rangers were trailing their bitter rivals by seven points this time last year in the title race — and ended up triumphing on the final day of the season.

“I don't think we are that far out in front in the league,” said the Rangers boss.

“It's a good headline to say you are nine points in front but Celtic still have a game in hand so we would look at it as being six points in front.

“At this stage last season, Celtic were seven points in front of us so it doesn't mean much.

“We have each other to play on two occasions, never mind the rest of the games. It's nice to be in that position but I don't think it means a great deal at this stage of the season.”

However, Smith was keen to praise his players for their efforts in staying in pole position despite having plenty of obstacles to overcome so far.

He added: “Our players deserve a great deal of credit for the way they have handled the season.

“It's not easy when you're involved in Champions League games and you're not doing well, it's not easy to keep a level of consistency going.

“In December, we played exceptionally well but, unfortunately, we have had a whole list of injuries and suspensions and that has disrupted us a little, I don't think there is any doubt about that.

“Since the turn of the year, we haven't played in the manner that we did in December.

“There has been a bit of inconsistency in our team right from the very start of the season in terms of performance so any lead that we have in the championship at the moment is welcome.

“But it's welcome in the knowledge that we still have an awful lot to do this season.”

Rangers play host to Hamilton in their fourth round Active Nation Scottish Cup replay tonight, in what will be their third meeting with Accies in just over a week.

Smith said: “We are used to playing each other more often than most countries but three games in 10 days is asking a bit much.

“I think we will be a bid fed up with each other by the time we finish the game.”

Rangers are boosted by the return of Kenny Miller and Lee McCulloch after both were suspended for Saturday's win over Accies.

Pedro Mendes, Steven Naismith and DaMarcus Beasley are all on the road to recovery but the cup tie this evening comes too soon for them.

Belfast Telegraph