Scottish Football: Killie in revival mode

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The Independent Online
A DRY spell in front of goal has left Kilmarnock thirsting for the success that put the provincial side among the Scottish Premier League contenders before the winter break. A revival of their scoring prowess tomorrow, when they face Rangers, will certainly make them the toast of east Glasgow as well as help to sate their longing for a Uefa Cup qualifying place.

Just one goal from three league games since returning from the hiatus has seen Kilmarnock's ambition of winning their first title since 1965 fade away. Bobby Williamson's side went into the shutdown four points behind Rangers, but have taken only one point from three games since and now lie in third place, 15 points adrift with a game in hand.

"The shutdown hit our momentum," admitted the striker Paul Wright, Kilmarnock's top scorer this season with six goals, despite missing large chunks of the season through injury. "Injuries have played a part. I have had a groin problem, while Jerome Vareille broke his arm in December and he was a vital player for us.

"The title may be beyond us now, but we want to claw back three points," he said Wright, who has scored against Rangers on their last two visits to Rugby Park. "Our aim is reaching the Uefa Cup at the very least."

Rangers, despite recent injuries which have put defender Arthur Numan out for the season and Colin Hendry for the next month, look near-certainties to clinch their 48th title if they overcome Kilmarnock.

The coach, Dick Advocaat, is unperturbed by second-placed Celtic's surge of form since returning form the break at the end of January. "There is no reason for nerves," he said. "There is still a gap of 10 points between us and Celtic. The most important thing is that we keep on winning. The pressure is on the other side."

The "other side" include Marko Viduka for the first time today when the champions face Dundee United at Parkhead. The Australian striker has scored twice in successive games for Celtic's Under-21 side and is close to full fitness again after his protracted pounds 3m transfer from Croatia Zagreb.