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Lafferty and Defoe injuries hand Gerrard selection headache

Players out: Steven Gerrard may have to make changes
Players out: Steven Gerrard may have to make changes

By Andy Newport

Rangers face a potential forwards crisis against St Johnstone today after boss Steven Gerrard revealed Jermain Defoe and Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty are both major injury doubts.

Top scorer Alfredo Morelos is already suspended for the Ibrox clash with Ulsterman Tommy Wright's team following his Aberdeen dismissal and Defoe was expected to step up to lead the Gers' line.

However, the former England hitman has now reported a tight hamstring while Lafferty also has a calf issue, leaving Gerrard so short on forward options he has had to withdraw youngster Dapo Mebude from Billy Stark's Scotland Under-19s to provide back-up.

"It's a concern, of course it is. However, we've got good attacking players. We may have to find a different way or a different plan. Hopefully they (Lafferty and Defoe) pull through," said Gerrard.

"They are both confident and I'll trust the players. I'll give them both every chance of being available and we'll go from there.

"I won't take a gamble if it means putting their bodies at risk. I'll be led by the players and if they are prepared to take some sort of risk I'll go with that.

"The final say will be with the player but I'll take into consideration everything the medical team and the player says before I make my decision."

Mebude was due to be part of the Scotland young guns facing Azerbaijan in a Euro qualifying clash in Spain this weekend.

But the 17-year-old could now be set for his first-team debut after returning to Glasgow.

"We've pulled young Dapo back from international duty just in case," said Gerrard. "I think he's got a huge future.

"He's probably not ready to be thrown into the deep end just yet but I think he'd certainly be ready for a cameo.

"He's come into training and hasn't looked out of place on numerous occasions. There is no doubt about it, he will play for Rangers at some point."

Gerrard will also be without goalkeeper Allan McGregor after failing to overturn the two-game ban issued to the Scotland number one for a tackle on Dons midfielder Lewis Ferguson last week.

Ibrox chiefs reacted with fury after seeing their appeal bid rejected just a day after Kilmarnock's Alan Power escaped punishment for kicking Gers' Ryan Jack in the face during Saturday's Scottish Cup stalemate, demanding the Scottish Football Association rethink their disciplinary process as a "matter of extreme urgency".

Gerrard, however, did not want to add his voice to the recent refereeing furore.

He said: "We'll just accept it and move on. Wes Foderingham will play in goal. We've got full trust in Wes.

"There's nothing to say on (McGregor's challenge). We've moved on. All I can do is do my job and hope we get more consistency.

"We can't afford for (talk about refereeing decisions and what incidents get punished) to become a distraction. We've just got to focus on the challenges in front of us. We've got a huge game at Ibrox.

"My job is to make sure the boys focus on what's in front of us. We can't control decisions or what happens with bans or at the SFA.

"I've already given my opinion on (the Alan Power incident), so I'm not going to repeat myself. We've moved on from the Allan McGregor ban. We accept our punishment so we move on."

Belfast Telegraph

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