McLeish on defence as attack fails him

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The Independent Online

Alex McLeish, the Rangers manager, said his players are not suffering a crisis of confidence as the season reaches its climax.

Alex McLeish, the Rangers manager, said his players are not suffering a crisis of confidence as the season reaches its climax.

They had the opportunity to move four points clear of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premier League table earlier in the week against a Dundee United side who went into the game propping up the rest of the league. They were beaten, however, and 24 hours later Celticmoved past them into pole position in the race for the title by thrashing Livingston 4-0.

But McLeish denied his players cannot handle the pressure. He said: "There is mass hysteria after the other night but we didn't play badly and I dispute anybody who says we did. We created a load of chances and the only thing wrong was our finishing. So there is no question of bottle."

Dado Prso, Nacho Novo and Shota Arveladze were all off-target on Tuesday but McLeish has backed them to make amends against Dunfermline on Sunday. He said: "I want them to get the shooting boots back on - that's the simple fact after the other night."

Chris Sutton and Bobo Balde could return for Celtic as they aim to go five points clear at the top by beating Aberdeen today. Sutton injured a foot and the defender hurt a leg in the win over Livingston but they are both expected to recover.

The goalkeeper David Marshall looks like continuing in goal with Robert Douglas still out with a groin strain. Didier Agathe could be on the bench as he continues his fight for full fitness after a long-term groin problem.

Hearts have been severely censured and fined £5,000 for questioning the integrity of a refereeing decision. The club have also been warned about their future conduct.

They had called for an investigation after the linesman Andy David flagged for a foul by Hearts' striker Lee Miller on the Rangers defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos during a SPL game last month.

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