The Herald - Herald Sport - - Football - DEREK MILLER

A QUICK glance at the Cly­des­dale Bank Premier League ta­ble sug­gests that Mother­well and Rangers are rel­a­tively close to­gether. It is only when the two clubs have shared a foot­ball pitch this sea­son that you re­alised just how far apart they are.

The Fir Park club are sat just three points be­hind Rangers ahead of their meet­ing this af­ter­noon, yet the sim­ple fact Mother­well Keith Lasley re­turns for Mother­well af­ter he served a two-match ban have failed to de­feat the trou­bled Glas­gow side on their pre­vi­ous 36 at­tempts would seem to of­fer lit­tle hope of that nar­row gap be­ing closed. It has been a source of frus­tra­tion to sup­port­ers – not to men­tion Stu­art Mccall, the Mother­well man­ager – that they have tended to strug­gle against the Old Firm this sea­son, de­spite an aus­pi­cious rise to­wards the up­per ech­e­lons of the league ta­ble.

“What is for cer­tain is we will have to play bet­ter than we have against Rangers this sea­son, we are prob­a­bly the worst side they have played,” said Mccall, whose side lost 3-0 the last time they met at Fir Park. “To break that hoodoo we need to per­form to a level against them that we haven’t man­aged, the level of per­for­mance we have shown this sea­son has been ter­rific on most oc­ca­sions but against Rangers it sim­ply hasn’t been there. I can prom­ise the per­for­mance [to­day] will be a good one.”

Rangers will ar­rive still buoyed by their 3-2 win in last Sun­day’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox. Mccall be­lieves that the re­turn of play­ers such as Kyle Laf­ferty and Steven Whit­taker will also come as a big boost.

Mother­well will wel­come back an in­flu­en­tial fig­ure of their own, though, with Keith Lasley re­turn­ing from a twom­atch sus­pen­sion. “Rangers will be as strong a side as they have been for a very long time given the num­ber of play­ers they have back from in­jury,” said Mccall.

“There is no doubt that they have good play­ers and a good squad so it will be dif­fi­cult. I have a great deal of con­fi­dence in my squad too, though, and I know we can make things dif­fi­cult for any side vis­it­ing Fir Park.”

Fol­low­ing a run of good re­sults for both St John­stone and Dundee United in re­cent weeks, Mother­well’s po­si­tion in third place has been made a lit­tle less com­fort­able, with the Perth club just five points be­hind. With the team in third likely to be re­warded with a place in next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fiers, Mccall in­sists his side must re­gain their fo­cus.

“We can’t af­fect any­one else’s re­sults un­til we play,” he said. “We are fight­ing for a Euro­pean slot. I am con­fi­dent that we have enough qual­ity that we can earn enough points to give our­selves a good chance.”

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