Football: Rangers hope Old Firm win can kick start season



GLASGOW, Alistair Watson - Walter Smith hopes Rangers' 2-1 Old Firm victory over Celtic can help kick-start his club's season.
It brought to an end a run of three straight goalless draws in the Scottish Premier League for the defending champions who also endured midweek European misery with a 4-1 home defeat by Sevilla in the Champions League.



Football: Rangers hope Old Firm win can kick start season
At Ibrox on Sunday the Gers gaffer had to watch on from the stand after starting a four-game domestic touchline ban as his side raced into a two-goal lead after just 15 minutes courtesy of a Kenny Miller double.
Aiden McGeady pulled one back from the penalty spot after China captain Zheng Zhi, who was making his debut for the Hoops, was fouled in the box by Sasa Papac in a first-half played at a frenzied pace.
In a scrappy second-half Rangers survived an onslaught from Celtic as Tony Mowbray threw his players forward in search of an equaliser which would have maintained their four-point advantage at the top of the Scottish Premier League.
"We were maybe needing something like this to kick-start our season as I felt we have had a slow start," Smith said.
"We have got Celtic back to a point now but it's now use unless we carry that on to the next lot of games we have.
"After three draws it was pleasing to get back to winning ways. We haven't lost a league game yet so from our own point of view we were delighted to hold on to that aspect of it.
"But cutting Celtic back from what could have been a seven-point lead to one point is obviously a huge thing for us."
Rangers striker Miller, who had been struggling before the game with a hamstring injury, showed no signs of it when he fired the home side into an eighth minute lead.
Former Hoops player Miller got a brace in the corresponding fixture last season and the striker couldn't hide his delight at netting again against his old club.
"It was a massive win for us. Losing today was not worth thinking about really," Miller said.
"An Old Firm win can kick-start your season but we are just happy with the win as we are still behind them."
Meanwhile Celtic manager Tony Mowbray challenged his central defenders to prove they deserve a place in his team after defensive errors lead to both of Miller's goals.
The former West Bromwich Albion boss has chopped and changed his defensive partnership this season with Glenn Loovens coming into the team to partner Stephen McManus at Ibrox as Gary Caldwell dropped to the bench.
The Hoops manager says he has yet to decide on a regular pairing and demanded to see improvements from his players in the weeks ahead.
"The central defenders at our club have to stake a claim and show me they possess quality week-in, week-out to take this club where we want it to be," Mowbray said.
"But that is all over the pitch, everyone has to step up to the mark because if we want to win the SPL more often and be a power in Europe, we have to develop and if the individuals can't step up to the mark then we will change them."
Mowbray raised a few eyebrows when he handed new signing Zheng Zhi a debut at Ibrox but the Chinese international handled the occasion well, winning a 25th minute penalty for the Hoops.
And his manager believes there is more to come from Zhi and singled him out for praise.
"I think he showed his quality, his composure and technical ability - all those things I know he possesses," Mowbray said.
"He can play in various positions - he can play wide, he can play off the front and in central midfield.
"He is just a good footballer and I think he showed that in spells today."
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Monday, October 5th 2009
Alistair Watson
           


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