Football: Smith beset by problems after another Rangers failure

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Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, has pointed the finger at his stand- in players for his side's Coca-Cola Cup semi-final defeat by Aberdeen on Tuesday night.

In addition, Paul Gascoigne's disciplinary record is proving another headache for Smith, with the pounds 4.3m signing collecting four yellow cards in eight domestic games.

The Ibrox club were yesterday picking up the pieces after a second failure in a big match in the past week. After their 4-1 Champions' League thrashing in Turin by Juventus last Wednesday, Rangers were then swept aside by Roy Aitken's team at Hampden.

Eoin Jess, rejected by Rangers as a youngster, outshone Gascoigne and set up the first of striker Billy Dodds' two goals with a superb 70-yard run at the Ibrox defence.

The defeat means Smith's champions for the past seven years, who already lead the Premier Division by six points, have not won a domestic cup since October 1993.

Seven of their leading players were missing from the 2-1 defeat, with Richard Gough, Brian Laudrup, Charlie Miller, Stuart McCall, Ian Ferguson, David Robertson and Trevor Steven all out injured.

All must now be rated doubtful for next Wednesday's Champions' League return against Juventus, with a league visit to Raith Rovers to come on Saturday.

A groin injury cost Gough his ever-present record so far this season and his injury may have been one absence too many for the champions - although Smith refused to use it as an excuse.

"We've been disjointed for most of the season," Smith said in reference to the injuries. "I think some people are looking at the way we are playing and taking comfort in the injuries, but when you have a squad like we do then they should be capable of winning games like the semi-final.

"The squad we had out against Aberdeen was capable of far better than they showed."

Rangers had to give the reserve team coach, John Brown, 33, his first start of the season but, despite the absentees, still fielded pounds 10m of summer signings in Paul Gascoigne, Oleg Salenko, Stephen Wright and Gordan Petric.

"We didn't do enough in the first hour or more to punish Aberdeen," added Smith. "After Aberdeen scored they were by far the better side and we didn't do nearly enough to win the game."

Smith will tomorrow face the club's annual general meeting, when a pounds 455,000 profit for the year end to 31 May 1995 will be announced.

The Rangers manager is expected to be re-elected as a director, although he and the chairman, David Murray, could face some disgruntled questioning at Glasgow's Concert Hall.

Gascoigne's simmering temper is another problem for Smith, with the England midfielder edging closer to a suspension. The England and former Lazio player has been booked four times in eight domestic games as well as once in two Champions' League ties.