Smith: We'll be careful with injured Miller

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The Independent Football

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, admits he will have to be careful with Kenny Miller after the striker again suffered from shin splints during yesterday's goalless friendly draw against Sydney.

Miller felt the problem had subsided after more than two weeks of pain but he was forced off after an hour of a match played in terrible conditions. However, Smith allayed fears over Kyle Lafferty and Lee McCulloch, who both subsequently limped off as the game degenerated into a struggle against a waterlogged pitch.

Smith said: "Kenny came off with the same problem that has been bothering him and we just have to watch it doesn't become a chronic one. It's one of those things which is okay during the game but as soon as he stops it causes him a bit of pain.

"Hopefully we can get over the weekend's game because when we travel back he will then have a few days' recovery and he won't have to play against Clyde next midweek. Kyle had a little bit of cramp in his calf as you'd expect because he did a lot of running tonight. He'll be okay and the same should apply to Lee and he just took a kick."

Despite the conditions making it difficult to produce quality football, Smith was at least pleased his side had to work hard to overcome the heavy park. With puddles across large areas of a surface that had just hosted a match between Blackburn and AEK Athens, simple passes failed to find their destination as the ball held up badly.

Smith had Steven Whittaker back from injury, allowing him to rest Madjid Bougherra after the Algeria defender picked up a minor knock during the victory over Blackburn in his team's first match of the Sydney Festival of Football. But Rangers struggled to find a rhythm in a first half of few chances on a deteriorating pitch.

Lafferty lit up the contest with a brilliant run, but he passed up the chance to shoot after beating his fourth man and his pass to Steven Naismith was overhit.

Maurice Edu had a great chance midway through the second half when Steven Davis found him unmarked from a free-kick, but Sydney goalkeeper Liam Reddy brilliantly pushed away the American's downward header. Neil Alexander also pulled off a good save when he clawed away Ibrahima Thiam-Iyane's curling effort from just inside the box.

Smith added: "It was difficult for both teams. If we get rain at this time of year back home the pitches normally handle it very well. But here the water was starting to lie on top of the pitch.

"That was reflected in the fact there weren't many opportunities for either side in the game. Mo Edu had our best chance with a header but their keeper made a terrific save and it was an evening where both teams really struggled up front.

"When the ball doesn't go over the ground terribly quickly, as was the case here, that's the sort of thing that happens. It was still beneficial from the point of view that the boys had to work really hard to get anything going.

"I felt Sydney put us under a bit of pressure in the first half then we did more of that after the break. We showed a good level of fitness for this time of the year and that was a pleasing factor, even if it was the only positive for us."

Rangers sit second in the table but they have little chance of overhauling AEK Athens, who they play on Saturday. The Greek side beat Blackburn 2-1 to move to 13 points, seven ahead of Rangers. Ignacio Scocco and Nikos Lyberopoulos scored in the space of three minutes midway through the first half to set up the Greek side's victory. Rovers, who also went down 2-1 to Rangers in their opening game on Sunday, pulled a goal back late on through centre-back Phil Jones but it was more than they deserved in a match completely dominated by AEK.

With each goal worth a point, Smith's men would need to beat AEK by five goals to overtake them.