Smith forecasts strong finish to Rangers' season from Lafferty

Striker scores in first game back after illness and injury and is tipped to play big part in race for the SPL title

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, has backed Kyle Lafferty to end the season on a high now his injury and illness worries are behind him.

The striker returned to the side for Tuesday night's 2-0 win over St Johnstone in the Scottish Premier League after recovering from a knee problem and made the most of the opportunity by grabbing the opener at McDiarmid Park.

The Northern Ireland international has also endured a spell on the sidelines recently with tonsillitis and Smith is well aware that Lafferty has been unable to enjoy an uninterrupted run in the team since his arrival at Ibrox.

But now, fit and making an impact, Smith expects the striker to go from strength to strength in the remaining games. He said: "He has finished the previous seasons strongly. His seasons always seem to be disrupted by injury and then he becomes a bit stronger later.

"Although there was an error on St Johnstone's part for the goal, he still had a bit to do and it was a good goal for him. We miss him when he's out, he's a bit erratic but he's an awkward one for teams to handle."

Steven Naismith also netted late on to wrap up the win in Perth that took the Scottish champions to the top of the SPL prior to Celtic's meeting with Hibernian last night.

Rangers had already passed up the opportunity to leapfrog their rivals to the summit when they lost 3-2 to Dundee United at Ibrox on Saturday.

Smith said: "We had to show a better edge in our defending. If we had the same levels of concentration and determination on Saturday, we wouldn't have lost the goals that we did. This game was far better on what was certainly a more awkward evening and a more awkward pitch."

Naismith felt the contribution of goalkeeper Allan McGregor – who produced a superb block at 1-0 to deny Saints the leveller – was just as important as that of the goalscorers.

He said: "It was a brilliant save but that's just Greegsy for you. He does it every week. He had a good one on Saturday as well and that's why he is number one.

"Without doubt those kind of saves can help you win titles. If St Johnstone had got back into the game, it puts their confidence right up.

"As much as it was important for us to score a second goal, Greegsy definitely keeps us in games. Fans probably don't realise how he could be standing about for 80 minutes and then pull off a wonder save five minutes before the end to win you the game.

"People might say he should be doing that because he's Rangers number one but the concentration levels that goalies need to have at Rangers is definitely up there and it's hard work."

Naismith added: "We are delighted to win and I was personally delighted to get another goal after getting one on Saturday.

"We knew this was just about the result and not about any kind of performance on that pitch and we got the goals at the right time.

"We weren't worried but we were fully aware that we had to push on and get that other goal. The goalkeeper already had a couple of saves so it was vital to get the second goal to calm things down."

News
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Homer’s equation, in an episode in 1998, comes close to the truth, as revealed 14 years later
science
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003