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Rangers are flying after Special K December diet

Broadfoot, McCulloch, Novo and Miller salute Gers’ travelling support

Darrell King

Published on 28 Dec 2009

John Hughes claimed in the build-up to Hibs’ moment of truth against Rangers that he wouldn’t swap any of his strikers for the Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller partnership.

Straw poll of SPL managers today and the likeable Easter Road gaffer would be in a minority of one if he still held true to that opinion in the wake of a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the on-fire champions yesterday.

Hughes looked on and winced as the most potent double act in the country continued their devastating December, and must have felt like a big helping of humble pie instead of the seasonal mince one.

It was a daft thing for Hughes to say as every team, Celtic included, would grab the kind of finishing, link-up play and work-rate from the Ibrox duo who have now scored 13 of the 19 goals Rangers have blasted in the last five league wins on the spin.

Again the Ibrox marksmen were quite simply lethal in a game that turned out to be more of a slapping down, than just a routine three points, dished out to one of the so-called provincial pretenders to the SPL throne.

Fair play to Hibs. For weeks they have been excellent. Unbeaten in 12 games, playing some lovely stuff and a breath of fresh air.

And when they scored after just 12 seconds through Anthony Stokes, the locals in Leith must have felt this would be their hour, the day a marker of their title credentials was laid down.

However, after a rocky opening 15 minutes or so, Walter Smith’s side got to grips with the game. They simply overpowered Hibs, just as they had done to Dundee United less than two weeks before, in what was another stark reminder that if anyone outside of the Old Firm truly wants to have a tilt at the championship they still have a fair bit to travel.

CentraL to the dismantling of the Hibs challenge in this one were Miller and Boyd. They combined to great effect once more, slicing through their hosts’ defence on three occasions that led to goals and their combined tally for the season now stands at 25 strikes.

Given the crucial nature of the next two tests this week, Dundee United at home on Wednesday and then Celtic on Sunday across the city, they could not be in better form.

“They have both being doing extremely well for a number of weeks, not only in their general game but in the goals return and the quality of some of their strikes as well,” said boss Smith after his side had once again re-established a four-point lead between themselves and Tony Mowbray’s men.

“It’s a team game, and there has been a fantastic effort from all the lads recently. But when you have two strikers in the form of Kenny and Kris, then you are always going to have a chance of winning matches.

“They have both been laying on chances for each other in a number of games. Again, yesterday, Kris has played Kenny in for both of his goals with very intelligent passes, and we are delighted not only with that aspect of their partnership together, but their overall workrate and desire.”

Having been over the course so many times, Smith knows that this period of the season can often be a killing ground.

There can never be guarantees with a lead, as the last two campaigns have shown when both halves of the Old Firm blew substantial advantages, but Rangers certainly look to have a scent in their nostrils.

Hughes was right in his assessment afterwards. His side, buoyed by an early goal, started to unravel a bit and their passing fell apart as Rangers pressed them. There are many components required for winning a title, but character is required in bucketloads.

Players at Rangers and Celtic need to show this, or they will crumble and be of absolutely no use to the cause. That winning mentality, ability to respond, shone through from those in blue and that remains the difference.

Having been pitiful at Pittodrie just a few weeks ago, Rangers have banked 15 points and looked pretty impregnable; another two wins in the net six days and they will be in a very, very strong position.

So what has changed from the poverty of the early season performances?

“I have stated it many times, but maybe people don’t appreciate the impact of a negative Champions League campaign like we had,” Smith explained.

“We had some bad nights and it was hard to get momentum going. But with Europe gone, we have a real focus now on domestic matters and that has led to far better performances.

“We told them that there was a requirement for better workrate and spirit. We have had that, and we have been picking up a fair bit in terms of our league displays, getting more consistency in results.

“But we will need that to continue. We face two very difficult games this week, and our lads will have to play with the same kind of commitment and desire as they have been showing, perform to their absolute best, if we are to take anything from them.”

NEED TO KNOW

Was it a good game? Built up big-time before kick-off, and when Hibs took an early lead it looked as though this one would explode. However, after Rangers took an iron grip, they controlled the match, ending up comprehensive winners.

What were the goals like? Anthony Stokes got us off and running after 12.4 seconds with a wonderful angled finish. Kenny Miller’s composed equaliser after 20 minutes was equally as classy. Kris Boyd then popped up to slam home eight minutes before the break. Nacho Novo sealed it seven minutes into the second half, Ma-kalamby being caught out at the front post. He wasn’t too clever when he failed to stop Miller’s second.

Rangers best player? There were no failures. Miller continues to enjoy a purple patch, but Nacho Novo gets the nod for his overall shift and goal.

Hibs top man? Merouanne Zemmama was excellent in the first half.

What about the ref? Excellent display from Iain Brines.

Who’s up next? Rangers host Dundee United at Ibrox on Wednesday night.

:sherlock:

http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/sport/editor...r-diet-1.994815

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