RANGERS manager Stuart McCall believes his team would have surprised at least some of their doubters by squeezing through the Premiership play-off against Queen of the South after the Dumfries team had wiped out their advantage and spread anxiety through the Ibrox stands.
“I think we have proved a lot of people wrong,” McCall said after the 3-2 aggregate victory which set up Rangers for the next instalment, at home to Hibernian on Wednesday. “I think these folk will have been looking at us, down at half-time, and thinking ‘Oh, Rangers have bottled it again. They’re looking a bit flaky’.”
Queens’ lead at the break levelled the tie but Lee Wallace scored the goal which took Rangers into the semi-final. “We have creative players in the side and I knew we would make opportunities,” added McCall, right.
“In the last 15 minutes Queens had nothing to lose. We were a bit tense but it’s job done and I’m proud of the players. I think over the two games no- one would deny we were the better side.”
Rangers slashed admission prices to £5 and were rewarded with their biggest crowd of the season. “There was a lot of tension from the stands today,” the manager added. “But on the flipside the atmosphere was a throwback to my time as a player here – it was brilliant. If we get the same backing on Wednesday then I think it will be exciting.”
While Rangers have had to come through two tough games, Hibs’ preparation has been a week’s break in the sunshine of La Manga. Was McCall envious of his opponents? “People ask me what I would rather have done but I don’t know. Eighteen days off until your next game is a bit long but I’m sure Hibs will be recharged and refreshed.
We have creative players in the side and I knew we would make opportunitiesStuart McCall
“Hopefully, we haven’t picked any injuries up today. We have a bit of time to rest, and come Wednesday we’ll be okay. The carrot of the play-offs is too big for us to be tired mentally or physically. We won’t have any tiredness in the ranks, we’ll be ready to go.
“It’s difficult to say who’s got the advantage but we go into Wednesday on the back of good form – beaten once in 17 – and when the big games have come along at the back end of the season we’ve stood up. We beat Hibs, we should have beaten Hearts, and have now got through against Queens when there have been a few doubters. So we move on to Wednesday confidently, although I’m sure Hibs do the same.
“It will be nervy again and probably very tight but we are looking forward to it.”
Queens manager James Fowler was disappointed with the result but praised his players. “I thought we probably deserved to take the game into extra time and if that had happened I don’t think Rangers would have had many complaints. But unfortunately we just couldn’t get that second goal.
“I’m disappointed we’re out but I’m really proud of the players’ performance. They gave everything and I couldn’t ask for more. It was great to see such a big Queens support here and hopefully we made them proud, too.”