ALLY McCoist is relishing the prospect of his first major semi-final as Rangers manager and believes his team are now better equipped to compete with top flight opposition in knockout competition.
Rangers will face Dundee United at Ibrox on 12 April in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup after defeating Albion Rovers 2-0 at New Douglas Park last night in their quarter-final replay against the League 2 minnows.
The match against United will be Rangers’ first against a Premiership club since they were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by the same opponents in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup at Tannadice in February last year.
“It was a disappointing result and performance against United last season,” said McCoist. “But if you look at our team last year and the way it was put together, we feel we have a better side now with better players.
“That said, you could argue that United also have a better team. They are a very good side with some really good younger players. I genuinely don’t know who should be favourites to win the semi-final. I would probably think it should be United, because of the level they are playing at every week. It is a game which will allow us to gauge how we can perform against a top flight team in a one-off cup tie.”
There is disquiet at United over the tie being played at Rangers’ home ground, the SFA having announced last October that both semi-finals will take place at Ibrox. But McCoist sought to play down the significance of that decision.
“Time will tell how much of a factor Ibrox is,” he added. “But I don’t think the United players will be fazed by it. They have played a lot of games at big stadiums before.
“We are just delighted to be in the semi-finals. It means a lot to us, because our record in the cups hasn’t been great. It’s a big game for us, but in the great scheme of things, it’s more important that we continue rebuilding the team and the club for the longer term.”
Earlier, United manager Jackie McNamara said: “I think like most people I’m surprised the decision for the semi-final venue was made so early.
“But we knew that before we played our quarter-final and now it’s about waiting to see what allocation we get.
“I don’t understand why the decision was made so early.
“Had it been Celtic who got to the semi-final what would they have done? Kept it at Ibrox and split the allocation? There’s no doubt we’re at a disadvantage.”
Albion Rovers manager James Ward had no complaints about the outcome as his players were unable to match their efforts from the 1-1 draw in the first game at Ibrox.
“I have to be honest and say Rangers performed a lot better tonight, especially in the second half when they had a lot of the ball,” said Ward. “We contained them in the first half but had a loss of concentration at the first goal. We let Rangers get a cross into the box without putting any pressure on it and didn’t pick up Fraser Aird who scored.
“We had a chance to equalise but didn’t make the most of it. Then for the second goal, we didn’t pressure the cross again and gave Jon Daly too much time to score.
“But I feel we have done ourselves extremely proud, from the first round against Spartans right through to tonight. The players have deserved all the attention and credit they have got. The cup run has been magnificent for us. Now we have to get back to our league campaign and try to get into play-off contention again.”