ALLY MCCOIST insists his Rangers side are not scared of Hearts - and believes the Ibrox men can still pip the Jambos to automatic promotion.
The Gorgie outfit’s 2-0 Tynecastle triumph on Saturday left Rangers trailing nine points adrift in the race for the Scottish Championship crown.
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It was the second time this season that Robbie Neilson’s team have beaten the League One champions following their 2-1 win back in August.
But McCoist - who faced chants of “Ally, Ally get to f***” from the travelling Light Blues support on Saturday - insists the only side to have impressed him this term are Hearts’ Edinburgh rivals Hibernian.
Asked if he still thought his side could reel in the Jambos and win the second-tier crown, the Gers boss said: “Absolutely. I just think that of all the games we have played, Hibs have played the better football against us. That was in the first game of the season in the Petrofac Cup.
“There is nothing else that terrifies me. That’s a contradiction because we have lost two games to Hearts but fair play to them.
“But within those two performances I can honestly say I haven’t seen anything that scares us.”
Rangers face top-flight opposition in the shape of Kilmarnock this Sunday in the William Hill Scottish Cup fourth round clash at Ibrox.
But the fall-out from last week’s disastrous defeat in the capital continues to dog the manager.
Like Rangers, Hearts have endured financial turmoil in recent times but under head coach Neilson and director of football Craig Levein, they have cajoled their exciting bunch of youngsters into a formidable outfit, still unbeaten 14 games into the season.
Their approach could not be in starker contrast to Rangers’ recruitment policy over the past three years.
McCoist - working without a scouting department - has opted to bring in established Premiership figures, mostly on wages the rest of the Championship could only dream of paying.
But the under-pressure Ibrox boss claims his side would have tripped at the first hurdle if he had placed his faith entirely in the Murray Park youth ranks after being banished to the Third Division in the summer of 2012.
“We have had a job to do to get out of the bottom division,” he explained. “No other team has done that having come down from the top flight.
“We lost the vast majority our players - all our internationals players.
“But if we had fielded a team completely made up of youngsters, we would not have won that league [the Third Division] and it would not have done them any good.
“So it’s all about getting the balance. Hearts have got a good balance and are doing well.
“We have got some youngsters of our own who have come through and are doing well - (Lewis) Macleod, (Fraser) Aird and the other youngsters who are doing fine.
“But it’s a completely different scenario.”
Among the former Rangers men to speak out this week was McCoist’s nine-in-a-row team-mate John Brown.
He claimed the performances put in by the likes of Kenny Miller, Kris Boyd and skipper Lee McCulloch had been “disgraceful”.
McCoist, however, said: “Every man and his dog has got an opinion, which they are entitled to.
“But my players know what I think of them and we will keep that in-house, which is the most important thing.”
McCoist was praised for holding the club together in the days after its liquidation crisis but now faces the most testing spell of his three-and-a-half year reign in charge.
The fans’ fury was clear at the weekend but the manager hopes to have their backing when Killie visit this weekend.
“I hope [the fans will give me their support]”, he said. “You can please some of the people some of the time...
“Over the piece, the support has been fantastic with the team and myself and I would hope that continues.
“What drives me on in circumstances like this? I just want to get the club back to the top flight. That drives us all on, not just me.
“We have to remain focused. There is flak flying about now as there has been before. There will be flak in the future. That won’t change.”
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