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

The Herald - Sport - - FOOTBALL - CHRIS JACK

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.”

Pic­ture: SNS

GRIN AND BEAR IT: Rangers had to grind out a win in Pais­ley last week­end.

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