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Rangers vs East Stirlingshire (SFL 3rd) 02/03/2013 KO 12:00 GMT


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Following the disappointment of the draw away to Stirling Albion, on Saturday Rangers take on East Stirlingshire at Ibrox. This season's previous incarnation of the same fixture, back in August 2012, resulted in a 5-1 Rangers win, with goals from Fran Sandaza, Lee McCulloch and an Andy Little hat-trick.

 

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East Stirlingshire currently sit seventh in the table having won three of their last ten games, including the last two. Rangers will of course be hoping for a repeat of the earlier result. Meanwhile, Lee McCulloch is hoping he can finally make his comeback following a protracted spell out injured.

 

Skipper Eyeing Comeback

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LEE McCULLOCH hopes he can finally make his Rangers comeback this weekend against East Stirlingshire after making a return to full training on Monday.

The Light Blues captain hasn’t played since he appeared in the 1-1 draw with Elgin City on January 5 at Ibrox.

McCulloch has been troubled by a persistent ankle injury which has only begun clearing in the last 10 days.

And he’s aiming to return to Ally McCoist’s squad for a game with a side Gers have scored 11 times against in two victories already this season.

The former Scotland international knows he won’t be as sharp as he would normally be for the meeting with John Coughlin’s men.

Nevertheless, he is eager to be involved after sitting out the last eight fixtures and having to deal with the frustrations that entailed.

McCulloch said: “I’ve not done anything for the last six weeks after playing two games with the injury. That probably made it worse and I couldn’t run properly.

“It didn’t seem to get any better over the period I was out but I saw a specialist who gave me a specific treatment and within three or four days that cleared it up.

“I was able to jog again and I started full training again at the start of this week so I’m still going to be a half yard off the pace.

“But things have turned out really well so far. I’m just happy to be back running again and a week of training will make a big difference.

“I’d hope to be involved in some way at the weekend and I want to play. I wanted to play against Stirling on Tuesday after doing 20 minutes of training the day before.

“The coaches laughed at me though because my adrenalin had kicked in a bit so I just walked away and accepted it was maybe a bit early.

“I have to say the gaffer has been brilliant with me. He has recognised I’ve been a wee bit down and has given me a few days off to spend it with my family.

“He knew I’d come back and work hard. I’ve done that and after breaking down three or four times, I feel I’m at a point where I’m just about ready to play again.â€

 

 

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It's now looking very likely that Lee McColluch will be available for tomorrow's game. Even with Andy Little in such fantastic goal scoring form, I think it's fair to say that his influence and experience have been sorely missed.

 

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SKIPPER Lee McCulloch is set to return to the Rangers side tomorrow – but the question is where will Ally McCoist use him?

McCulloch has not featured since January 5 because of problems with his ankle.

The 34-year-old felt he was ready to come back at Stirling during the week but it was decided to give him a concerted training period to make him fully ready for Saturday’s visit of East Stirling.

McCulloch, of course, has regularly featured as the main striker this season but with Andy Little in blistering form he may be used at the back or in midfield.

McCoist said today: “Lee McCulloch is back in the squad which is great news. He felt he would have been available for Tuesday but we decided to leave him out.

“We wanted to give him a full week’s training and he has come through that absolutely fine.

“So he will come back into the reckoning and that’s good for us.

“In the early part of the season he was banging in all sorts of goals for us and he is the club captain so he is massive figure on and off the park.

“So it will be a real boost for the team and also a boost for the support to have him back.â€

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Team news is that Lee McCulloch plays - confirmed.

 

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LEE McCULLOCH returns to the Rangers starting line-up for the first time in eight weeks this afternoon as the Light Blues face East Stirlingshire at Ibrox.

The club captain hasn’t featured since the 1-1 draw with Elgin on January 5 because of an ankle injury.

But after it finally began clearing last week, he returned to full training on Monday and will join in-form Andy Little in a two-man attack against Shire.

Ally McCoist wasn’t happy with the way his men performed in their 1-1 stalemate with Stirling Albion at Forthbank on Tuesday night.

And he has changed his system accordingly, with the manager reverting to a 4-4-2 system against John Coughlin’s side.

McCulloch comes in for Dean Shiels, who drops out of the squad completely from four days ago.

Otherwise it’s the same team which faced the Binos, meaning Kal Naismith retains his place on the right side of midfield to make his second league start for the club.

Neil Alexander takes his usual place in goals to keep up his run of being the only ever-present in the team this season.

Anestis Argyriou, Chris Hegarty, Emilson Cribari and Lee Wallace make up the defence, with the latter handing back the skipper’s armband to McCulloch.

Joining Naismith in midfield are central pair Ian Black and Kyle Hutton along with winger David Templeton.

Amongst the substitutes this afternoon is Kane Hemmings, who recently enjoyed a successful loan spell at Cowdenbeath.

The English forward scored four goals in consecutive games and is joined on the bench with keeper Scott Gallacher, Sebastien Faure, Barrie McKay and Fraser Aird.

Rangers have scored 11 goals in two games against East Stirlingshire so far this term and are looking for more as they seek one of the six wins they need to win the Third Division.

RANGERS: Alexander; Argyriou, Hegarty, Emilson, Wallace; Naismith, Black, Hutton, Templeton; Little, McCulloch.

SUBS: Gallacher, Faure, McKay, Aird, Hemmings.

REFEREE: Brian Colvin.

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Relief was the dominant feeling around Ibrox after Rangers' Third Division win over John Coughlin's hard-working East Stirlingshire.

Rangers had spurned a number of chances in the first half when Andy Stirling began and finished a slick move to put the Shire ahead on 40 minutes.

The home side became more clinical, Andy Little pouncing to level and Lee McCulloch tapping home a second.

As Rangers turned the screw, Little fired in a third.

The sun was shining at Ibrox as kick-off neared.

And with the mood surrounding the club leavened by no loss of Scottish Premier League titles following Lord Nimmo Smith's independent commission into the club's method of paying players from 2000-2011, the fans were buoyant.

Club legend Sandy Jardine's address to the supporters after a period of serious illness bolstered the positive feeling in the home crowd.

Rangers, of course, had been found guilty of administrative malpractice but cleared of fielding ineligible players or having sought an unfair advantage.

 

 

After 15 minutes, good work from David Templeton on the right-hand side created an opportunity for the home side, but Little missed what would be the first of a host of early chances, heading over from close range.

East Stirlingshire almost nicked the lead when Jamie Glasgow nipped in behind Emilson Cribari and almost poked the ball past goalkeeper Neil Alexander.

After a slow opening 20 minutes, Rangers began to step up the pace. Ian Black spotted Little had beat the offside trap, but the striker headed wide at the far post.

Then skipper McCulloch, back from an ankle injury that has kept him out since early January, forced Grant Hay into his first meaningful save of the game, cutting inside and firing a rocket straight at the keeper.

In the 27th minute Rangers' best move of the game carved open the visitors. Templeton fed Kyle Hutton who had skipped ahead of his marker down the left. He cut the ball back for Little but he drove his shot wide.

The Shire took the lead with their first attempt on target, five minutes from the break.

Stirling accelerated infield from the left, played a one-two on the edge of the box and rushed on to side-foot the ball past the helpless Alexander for a memorable goal.

Rangers were smarting and almost had an immediate reply.

McCulloch arrowed a low free-kick through the black-and-white hooped wall, Hay made an excellent parry to his left and young defender Chris Hegarty somehow knocked the ball over the bar from six yards.

When Brian Colvin blew for half-time the booing that rang round the stadium could hardly have been in greater contrast to the cacophany of cheers 45 minutes earlier.

Rangers drew level when Little followed up on Anestis Argyriou's miss-hit shot from the right to smash the ball home from eight yards.

That raised a massive cheer from the vast majority of the hefty 44,534 fans inside the ground, but their embarrassment would not diminish unless they could earn a convincing win.

Templeton looked the player most likely to create excitement and he set up Rangers' second in 62 minutes, skilfully turning his marker inside out before passing to McCulloch, who beat a weak offside trap to round Hay and side-foot home.

A minute later, the points were made safe as Little was afforded far too much time and space to set up a low shot that squirmed under Hay.

Stirling connected with Max Wright's low cross from the left wing to snap a shot from 12 yards then Templeton pounced on a loose ball following a save by Hay but could only hit the post.

The result means Rangers are 23 points clear in Division Three but the Shire can be proud of their efforts before they so visibly tired in the second half.

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Images from today's game, starting off with a shot of Sandy Jardine in the stands at Ibrox. What I haven't found yet are any of the placards held up to celebrate the recent decision that Rangers won't be stripped of their 54 league titles:

 

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