Scottish Football: Saints travel with timidity

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ST JOHNSTONE, who are struggling to protect their Premier Division status after four years in the top flight, head for Ibrox today more in hope than expectation.

Since winning promotion in 1989/90, the Perth side have faced Rangers 15 times in the league - and are still chasing their first victory after 12 defeats and three draws.

To make matters worse, the Saints, who currently occupy one of the three relegation places, are short of players. Their striker, Ian Ferguson, sent-off on Tuesday for stamping on Aberdeen's Brian Irvine in a Scottish Cup tie, is suspended.

The St Johnstone manager, Paul Sturrock, may also have as many as five men on the injury list. 'Gary McGinnis, Sean McAuley and John Davies are already almost certainly out,' he said. 'John Inglis and Harry Curran have picked up knocks at Pittodrie and are doubtful. I thought we were over our injury crisis, but this is crippling us.'

Rangers, who lead the league by four points, began their 13-match unbeaten run with a 4-0 win at Perth in December. They should be unchanged. Motherwell, at home to Dundee, will be without Steve Kirk for the rest of the season - the midfielder has had a groin operation.

Also out for the rest of the campaign is Kilmarnock's Under-21 international midfielder, Mark Skilling, who is recovering from a hernia operation. Raith Rovers, at home to Hearts, have agreed a pounds 50,000 fee with St Johnstone for their striker, Steve Maskrey.