Rangers bemoan pile-up of road trips

Rangers have added to the protests over the post-split Clydesdale Bank Premier League fixtures by hitting out at the decision to hand them three consecutive away games.

Despite having a double-figures lead at the top of the table, Rangers chief executive, Martin Bain, argued that his club had been placed at a "competitive disadvantage" by being given trips to Hibernian, Dundee United and Celtic in succession.

Bain has also criticised the decision to give Celtic a third home match against Motherwell, whose pitch suffered badly in the harsh winter.

The Ibrox director called for an end to the split and a debate on the structure of the SPL. Bain said: "We find it disappointing and surprising that we have been asked to play three consecutive away matches in the space of 10 days at such a crucial stage of the season. We know we have work to do in our efforts to win the championship but it is maybe just as well we have a good lead given the schedule we are faced with. It is certainly our understanding that clubs are never forced to play three away games in a row before the split so we don't know why we are being asked to do so now."

Bain's criticism follows disquiet from St Mirren over their third trip to relegation rivals Falkirk and strong unhappiness from Motherwell over their fixtures, which see them play two more away games than home matches. Bain has called for an extended debate over the league's structure to avoid more disparity.

"Having played Dundee United twice at Tannadice, for example, in order to balance home and away fixtures we are having to travel to Tannadice for a third time," Bain said.

"There are a number of anomalies that the post split fixtures have thrown up this season and this highlights the unsatisfactory situation that currently exists with a 12-team league and a split after 33 games, and outside influences seem to becoming major factors in determining these.

"The SPL have said that the police did not want the final Old Firm game of the season to be decisive and therefore did not want it scheduled for fixture 34 or 35.

"They have also said that they did not want the game on the weekend of May 1 and May 2 as this is a bank holiday weekend, but what difference does it make when the match is invariably played at 12.30pm? The other aspect is that Celtic are not being asked to go and play on the difficult surface at Fir Park when they have only played there once this season. Does that equate to sporting integrity?"

Bain added: "I think the time has come for a more considered debate on a better structure that removes the split completely."

Rangers are boosted by the return of Madjid Bougherra and Kirk Broadfoot for their Clydesdale Bank Premier League ga me against Dundee United. Both players have been sidelined for several weeks with hamstring problems but are added to the squad for the trip to Tannadice. No fresh injuries or suspensions means Walter Smith has a full squad to choose from.