Win or kiss bye bye to the title, Boyd tells Hibs
Former Rangers striker fears worst for Edinburgh side if they lose at Easter Road
THEY will not be out of mind, but they could well be out of sight. The importance of the Sunday showdown between Rangers and Hibernian will be downplayed in some quarters ahead of kick-off but, even this early in the season, it is a game of huge significance.
It is the proverbial six-pointer. A win for Rangers, which would be their 12th in succession in the Championship, would see them open up an 11-point advantage at the top of the table and take a big stride towards the Premiership. If they were to suffer their first league defeat, though, that would create a very different scenario.
For Alan Stubbs and his players, it is a chance not only to claw back some ground in the title race, but an opportunity to inflict a first blow on a side that have been more accustomed to dishing out beatings than sustaining any damage in the opening weeks of the campaign.
Only a dozen games will have been completed come the final whistle, but few so far this season will have been as crucial for both clubs. A double-digit points deficit would not, in theory, be too big a margin to bridge for Hibernian but the task would be sizeable, the chances slim.
“It is obviously important for Hibs to win the game, there is no doubt about that,” Kris Boyd, the former Rangers striker, said. “Hibs have turned the corner a little bit in terms of performances and getting results but really in that league, teams will make it hard for you, but the only challenge Rangers and Hibs get is when they play against each other. Both of them will go at it, they will take the game to each other.
“I think Hibs will need to win the game to have any chance. The way Rangers have been, they are only going to get better. In the last month, they have not dropped any points when they have not been playing great but they are still winning games. If Hibs don’t beat them and they go 11 points clear, it is going to be a big task to pull that back.”
The finishing line may be some way in the distance but Rangers have already taken important steps as they have burst out of the blocks this season. The goals have not arrived with the same frequency that they did in the opening weeks of the campaign but the wins have still been racked up at an impressive rate.
Victory over St Mirren last weekend was another earned by substance rather than style as they had to grind it out to add another three points to their tally. As Boyd, a winner of two SPL titles and six medals in total during his first spell at Ibrox, knows, they all count.
“Sometimes you take your 1-0, like Sunday, and go home with the three points,” he said. “There were other chances in the game. They will be positive going into every game and confident, but to go a whole season unbeaten is not easy.
“For Hibs and Rangers, the real competition is against each other. They will be confident of winning every other game. It will be a big challenge for them this season but I am confident they can go and win the game.”
While earlier in the campaign Rangers were winning each game by a handful of goals, they have found recent tests tougher to pass. Falkirk, Queen of the South and Livingston all proved difficult opposition before the visit to Paisley but there would be no better time like the present to raise the bar once again.
“The standard was that high at the start of the season, they were scoring four or five goals every game,” Boyd, speaking at the launch of the Ladbrokes Track Your Acca app, said. “It is impossible to keep going like that, it doesn’t matter how good a team you are. Even if you look at Barcelona, you can’t score three, four, five goals every week. But what you can do is keep clean sheets and win games of football and over the last month Rangers have done that and they have kept the league unbeaten run intact. I am sure they will be looking forward to the game at Easter Road.”
GRIN AND BEAR IT: Rangers had to grind out a win in Paisley last weekend.