Rangers get warning for title run-in

Thomson says champions must beware of complacency after dropping points at Ibrox
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The Independent Football

Kevin Thomson insists Rangers did not need a reminder that the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title race is far from over after dropping points to Hearts at the weekend.

The Scottish champions were forced to battle for a draw against 10-man Jambos, with youngster Andrew Little coming off the bench to rescue a last-gasp share of the points.

A win would have allowed Rangers to move 12 points clear at the summit ahead of Celtic's game 24 hours later but Thomson claims complacency was never an issue.

"We have never said it's over," said the midfielder. "We've got to be confident in our own ability that we can beat whatever team we come up against and people expect us to win every week.

"But full credit to the whole of the SPL, the games are tough. It was a struggle on Saturday, scoring in injury time. We felt as though we dominated the game without creating too many chances. But these are the obstacles that are going to be put in front of us if we want to retain the title. We just need to show a desire and hunger to push ourselves over the winning line."

According to Thomson, the queue for the treatment room at Rangers has had a bigger impact on recent results and performances. He added: "It is tough when key players are out injured and we don't quite have the same squad as we did last year, in numbers anyway, although I think the quality is still there.

"When we lose key players it is difficult to maintain the run and show the kind of attitude to win every week when the team is a bit unsettled. But I think the boys have done that and credit to them, those who have come in have done ever so well.

"It was disappointing to get just a point on Saturday but we are still top of the league and I would rather be in our position than Celtic's."

Celtic's victory over St Johnstone saw them reduce the deficit to seven points.

Hoops' boss Tony Mowbray has also bolstered his squad with the arrival of Ki Sung-Yueng, Jos Hooiveld and Morten Rasmussen this month as they attempt to halt Rangers' bid for a second successive championship.

But, while the financial plight at Ibrox means any new arrivals remain unlikely, Thomson sees no reason to be jealous of their rivals.

He said: "From a players point of view, you don't want to see new players coming in. Everybody wants quality in and it's always nice in the summer when there are a couple of new faces to freshen up the team.

"But we've got a settled squad and we feel as though we've got enough quality to push on and retain the title. We will be doing our best to get as many points as possible to make sure we are crowned champions."

Speaking ahead of tomorrow's tonight's clash at St Mirren, Thomson added: "I'm not surprised by our lead in the SPL. We are all confident in our own ability and that we are good enough to retain the title.

"It's a challenge we need to accept as a team and we've got that character and belief within the squad that we can retain the title. Celtic did it for a few years and we managed to claw it back off them. Now it's up to us to try to retain it."

Walter Smith is hoping the club's injury woes are about to be eased. Smith has seen his squad stretched to the limit by injury and suspension in recent weeks, even failing to fill the bench with a full complement of substitutes against Hamilton recently.

Saturday's clash with Hearts saw Rangers start with two 18-year-olds – John Fleck and Danny Wilson – while naming four youngsters on the bench, including Andrew Little, whose last-gasp strike rescued a point for the Scottish champions.

However, Smith has revealed the squad that will make the short trip to Paisley should have a more familiar look, with the return of Kenny Miller, Steven Naismith and Nacho Novo, as well as Pedro Mendes, who was an unused substitute on Saturday.

"The news is a little bit brighter," said the Rangers boss. "If the injuries had been spread over sections of the team, it would be fine. But the injuries were to almost every one of our front and attacking players and that was a problem. That affected us a bit on Saturday and had done in two or three of the previous games as well.

"The creation of opportunities maybe hasn't been as good as it had been before."