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Smith revels in Boyd return

Rangers 3 Hibernian 0

Rangers manager Walter Smith spoke of his delight at having Kris Boyd available to face Celtic at the end of the month after fearing the striker had been ruled out of the crucial Old Firm derby.

Boyd netted his 21st goal of the season as the Scottish champions restored their 10-point lead at the summit of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League with a 3-0 win over Hibernian.

But a yellow card for the SPL's all-time top goalscorer late in the first half was a cause for concern for the Rangers camp who thought the caution had sent Boyd crashing through the disciplinary points barrier.

However, referee Steve Conroy clarified the booking, for a foul on Merouane Zemmama, was for obstruction, meaning the fans' favourite will be available for the hugely-anticipated clash at Ibrox on February 28 by the skin of his teeth.

Smith said: “I looked at the list during the week and when he got booked I thought he might have been out. But the referee says it was for obstruction which is just a two-point one so he has a point to go yet.

“We are pleased to have him, there is no doubt about that. Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller are just coming back from injury and it's important they have a bit of continuity. That would mean Kris can play so we are pleased about that.”

Celtic may face a massive task in clawing back the deficit and preventing their rivals claiming back-to-back championships but Smith is refusing to read too much into his side's advantage just yet.

Rangers' own title credentials were questioned by some midweek when a draw at Motherwell saw their lead cut to eight points.

The Rangers boss said: “Everybody makes all these assumptions — it was 10 points and then it was eight points and, when it was eight points, we weren't going to win the league.

“We will just carry on and I think that's the sensible thing to do. People don't give enough credit to the other teams in Scotland and they think it's easy for the Old Firm to win games. It's not.

“We are delighted to have the 10-point gap but you know the consequences of not winning so nothing should be taken for granted and I don't think we would.”

Steven Whittaker set the ball rolling with a lovely strike early in the second half, before Boyd doubled the lead from the penalty spot.

Miller then put the gloss on the win in injury time but Smith believes third-placed Hibs also deserve some of the credit.

He said: “It was a terrific three points and we had to work extremely hard for the win. It was an excellent game and an excellent advert for Scottish football.”

Hibs boss John Hughes had no complaints about the efforts of his players but admits they were simply no match for Rangers in the second half.

He said: “It's a massive disappointment but we came here and had a go. I don't think my goalkeeper had too many saves to make in the first half and I thought it was quite even at half-time.

“The first goal knocked us flat, we were hanging in there but it was one-way traffic. We had a go and I'm proud of the players — we had nothing to lose. Sometimes you just have to take it on the chin.”

Asked about the penalty decision, when Sol Bamba was deemed to have fouled Miller in the box, he added: “I've not really seen it so I can't really comment. It would be stupid of me to comment.”

Hughes was also keeping tight-lipped over Rangers' chances of retaining the title.

He said: “Let me take care of Hibs and look after my own team and let someone else comment on Celtic and Rangers.”

Belfast Telegraph


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