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Rangers star Dean Shiels is thriving under the intense pressure at Ibrox

By Stuart McKinley

When Dean Shiels signed for Rangers, he did so with the intention of playing for the club in every division of Scottish football.

Now, almost three years on and following back-to-back promotions, he and his Ibrox team-mates are four crucial games away from overcoming the final hurdle on the road back to the top.

The fight to rise from the lowest tier all the way back to the Premiership is bringing pressure at every turn, but Shiels, who signed a four-year deal back in 2012, wouldn't have it any other way.

If some around Govan are feeling the heat as Rangers face Hibernian in a two-legged battle, starting with the first encounter at Ibrox tonight, for the right to take on Motherwell for a place in next season's top flight, Northern Ireland international Shiels isn't one of them.

He accepts that pulling on the light blue shirt brings demands and expectations that players have to accept or move on.

"You have to be mentally strong no matter who you play for, but there is extra pressure playing at Rangers," said Shiels.

"If you don't want pressure then go and play bowls or something like that. Pressure is part and parcel of the game.

"We know what is expected of us every time we go over that line and we are doing it for ourselves as much as for the fans and the staff."

Ibrox was a near sell-out as Rangers saw off Queen of the South on Saturday after a 1-1 draw, with Shiels' two goals in the first leg proving crucial to the outcome.

A full house is expected again this evening as the fans who were growing more and more disgruntled just a few months ago are now backing the club's new board and the players.

"If we can get us all pulling together - the fans, the players and the staff - then it gives us a great chance," said Shiels.

"The fans have been brilliant from League Two up and we are on the last step to get up. We need them more than ever and know how good they are.

"There is such a long way to go and we need to get in and get the job done."

Gers boss Stuart McCall, who took over the reins from caretaker Kenny McDowall in March after Ally McCoist was put on gardening leave in December, has restored Shiels to the team and he is in agreement with the striker over how big a part the fans have to play.

"I have said all along, Ibrox is a difficult place to play when expectations are high," said McCall.

"We are not a Graeme Souness team or a Walter Smith team or a Dick Advocaat team.

"We haven't got that quality, but the last two home games have pleased me so much, as have the supporters.

"There have been tense moments. We have given the ball away at times and you can understand the frustrations of the fans.

"Against Queen of the South, we were a goal down, the ball got thrown out to Richard Foster, it took a bobble and he sliced it into the stand and again there were moans and groans.

"Within a minute the ground was as loud as I have ever heard it and this was before we had scored. They got us that goal as much as anyone else.

"I don't want the players to freeze, or be frightened to make a pass, take a shot or be anxious.

"When the fans use that tension to sing and cheer, the difference in the players is incredible."

Scottish Premiership play-off: Ibrox, 7.45pm (BT Sport)



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