Scottish Football: McCoist back in the pack

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The Independent Online
ALLY McCOIST, the Rangers and Scotland striker, is winning his battle to be fit for his team's challenge to reclaim their familiar perch at the top of the Premier Division today.

McCoist, missing for six months with a broken leg, has returned to something like his best form in recent weeks, and took his total to four goals in six starts with a double against Dundee on Wednesday. Despite a calf knock which forced him to limp off after 64 minutes, he should be ready to tackle lowly Raith Rovers at Ibrox.

A two-goal victory for Rangers coupled with a draw between the Premier Division's leading pair, Aberdeen and Motherwell, would be enough to lift the champions back on top for the first time since the second Saturday of the season.

The Ibrox manager, Walter Smith, who believes his side are back on the right track, said: 'We are hopeful that Ally will be OK for the Raith match. At this stage we don't want anything to interfere with his comeback.'

However, the midfielder, Trevor Steven, is ruled out of the game against the division's second-bottom club after being summoned to join the England squad for next week's World Cup tie in Bologna against San Marino.

Celtic, who have gained five points out of six under Lou Macari, visit Kilmarnock where another Parkhead old boy, Tommy Burns, lies in wait. Chic Bates, Macari's No 2 at Stoke, will be back at the Scot's side in the dug-out this weekend.

'His arrival completes our backroom team,' said Macari, who was yesterday attempting to sell his 30-year-old centre-half Tony Mowbray back to Middlesbrough. Liam Brady paid pounds 1m for Mowbray two years ago.

The Scotland Under-21 midfielder, Brian O'Neil, will continue to be developed as a striker - a role in which he has scored twice in three games. Gerry Creaney, hurt at Aberdeen in midweek, is likely to be out for several weeks.

Frank McAvennie, out since September after an ankle operation, is poised to return after a 10-game absence while Kilmarnock have lost Ally Mitchell with a foot injury and Mark Skilling is doubtful with flu. However, another veteran forward, George McCluskey, may return for Kilmarnock to face his former club.