RANGERS manager Ally McCoist has admitted he would prefer to avoid facing Celtic in the semi-finals of the League Cup.
McCoist’s team became the first to book their place in the last four of the tournament when they defeated Scottish Cup holders St Johnstone 1-0 at Ibrox last night. A crowd of just 13,032 saw Lewis Macleod score the 86th-minute winner as many supporters stayed away in protest at the latest boardroom developments at the club.
Rangers are in the semi-finals for the first time in four years and now await the outcome of tonight’s three remaining quarter-finals, including Celtic’s home tie against Partick Thistle.
It raises the prospect of Saturday’s draw producing an Old Firm semi-final but McCoist would welcome a notionally more favourable route to the final.
“When you get to the semis, you can’t really pick and choose,” said McCoist. “We all know who would be favourites to pick up the domestic trophies before the season starts.
“I don’t think that would change, so in that respect I would probably take anyone else other than Celtic.
“I don’t think it is rocket science to work out it would maybe give you a better chance of reaching the final, although it wouldn’t guarantee it.
“It would be a very, very tough game [against Celtic]. Stating the obvious, we would very much be the underdogs. But underdogs can sometimes win.”
Derek Llambias, the former managing director of Newcastle United, was in the directors’ box last night as he takes up an initial consultancy role on behalf of Mike Ashley following the Sports Direct businessman’s £2 million loan deal which has secured him significant boardroom influence at Rangers.
McCoist has yet to meet Llambias, who is expected to replace the ousted Graham Wallace as chief executive, but insists neither the latest off-the-field issues or poor attendance last night affected his team.
“It was really easy to concentrate on the game because that is our job,” said McCoist. “There has been a lot going on off the field for it seems like a long, long time. But the only thing we can have an effect on is the results on the park so we are duty bound to do that and get a team on the park that we feel can win games.
“I haven’t spoken to Derek yet. I haven’t been told anything and I haven’t met anyone yet. I don’t have any doubt that time will come. But right now it’s about getting the boys brushed down and ready for another tough cup tie on Saturday.
“The size of the crowd is not the norm, I accept that. But as I said before the game, whether there are 500 or 50,000 in the ground, the job is still the same and you have to be professional in the manner you go about your job. I felt we did that tonight. It was a tough, stubborn first half but we lifted it in the second half and deserved to go through.”
McCoist’s satisfaction with the victory was tempered by his concern for goalkeeper Steve Simonsen who suffered a head injury when he collided with a post after making a fine save from Brian Graham when the match was still goalless. He was carried off on a stretcher and replaced by Lee Robinson.
“I am concerned because he’s off to hospital for a wee check-up,” added McCoist. “The doc said it’s hopefully more precautionary than anything else but I wouldn’t be qualified to give you a comment on it until he’s been looked at in the hospital. Fingers crossed he will be alright.”
St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright was left to bemoan his team’s lack of a cutting edge but felt they did not deserve to lose the tie in 90 minutes. “We were unfortunate not to at least take it to extra time,” said Wright.
“I’m disappointed because we created a few opportunities and could have taken something out of the game.”
Saints also had a player stretchered off, midfielder Murray Davidson replaced in the first half with concussion. “He’s fine now,” said Wright. “His eye is closed, but he is being allowed to go home, although he’ll miss our league game against Motherwell on Friday.”