Nicky Clark might be incapacitated just now but the Rangers striker would very much like to play in a Scottish Cup quarter-final when he makes his return from an ankle injury, which he hopes will be next month.
However, he realises the Ibrox club’s chances of progressing to this stage risk being undone if Bilel Moshni succumbs to any more rash moments following the centre-half’s needless red card against Brechin City on Saturday. The second red card of his short Rangers career helped turn what looked set to be a comfortable victory into a close-run one. With Clark anticipating another tough and possibly even bruising examination at the hands of Dunfermline on Friday night, he has appealed for calm from Moshni.
In fairness to the defender, he has already apologised to the Rangers players and promised to act responsibly in future. However, the French-Algerian also denied there were any problems with his temperament in interviews on the eve of the game with Brechin. The very next day, and when already on a booking after a clumsy challenge, he was given his marching orders after kicking the ball against an opponent when a foul was awarded against him with 30 minutes left to play.
Rangers were able to hang on to win 2-1. However, Moshni’s sixth red card in three-and-a-half seasons in British football since signing for Southend United in 2010 (he has also been yellow carded 28 times) has again placed the spotlight on his ability to attract trouble. Earlier this season, he was red carded following a 4-0 win over Airdrie after becoming involved in a flare-up with opposition manager Gary Bollan as the teams left the field, and having been booked for another off-the-ball incident in the second-half. He is now suspended for the league games against Ayr and Stenhousemuir later this month and is just one yellow card away from another ban.
Clark, who was watching from the stands, admitted that Saturday’s red card was another “daft” one picked up by the defender. The striker stressed how important it is that Moshni “keeps the head” during Friday night’s televised fourth round clash with Dunfermline at Ibrox.
“He made it hard for us towards the end of the game,” conceded Clark, with reference to Saturday. “Bilel knows that himself, he admitted it. But he’s brilliant around the place, he’s a lovely big guy. Every morning, he comes in and it’s ‘how you doing everyone’? He’s great to have about the place.
“Obviously, he’s a bit different when he’s playing. He’s got a bit of hardness about him. I certainly wouldn’t fancy having a fight with him.
“He was stupid against Brechin but he’ll come back from it. He’s quite loud and vocal in the dressing-room. And it affected him after the game on Saturday. He was upset and angry with himself. He’s a passionate guy and that showed what it meant to him. It’s important that he keeps his head against Dunfermline in the cup on Friday night because it’ll be a battle against them. It’s vital that we keep everyone on the park. Every club, including Dunfermline, have tried to be physical with us. They think that’s the best way to beat us but we’ll take on that challenge. And we can give it out as well as take it.
“We enjoy that side of it. The last Dunfermline game at East End Park was brilliant. There was a great atmosphere and we won 4-0. We were up to the physical challenge that night and it’ll be the same on Friday. We want to be in the next round.”
Clark is eyeing being fit for the quarter-finals at the start of next month, providing Rangers can take care of Dunfermline – who they have already beaten twice this season – later this week. His good form has been interrupted by a foot injury, sustained against Airdrie last month. Remarkably, he played on and was even named on the bench for the next game against Stenhousemuir. A scan later revealed that he had fractured a bone, hence the need for what he described as the “moon boot” clasped to the end of his leg as he helped promote the inaugural SPFL official sticker album yesterday.
“I’m in this moon boot for another two and a bit weeks then I’ll have to get my fitness back,” he explained. “The timing of it was frustrating because I was starting regularly and scoring goals. But I’ll just need to bounce back.
“It was just a tackle in the first ten minutes against Airdrie. I played on with it because I didn’t realise how bad it was. We didn’t know there was a fracture until we got a scan done the following week. I probably made it worse by playing on - it certainly didn’t help.”
Fortunately, he was not called to come on against Stenhousemuir in the following match when named among the substitutes. Clark has been on the sidelines ever since and has watched players like Dean Shiels and David Templeton shine in his absence. The 22 year-old knows he has a fight on his hands to regain his place in a team edging their way ever nearer the League 1 title. “Dean has been great,” he said. “He scored a great goal on Saturday and we knew he has that in his locker. Temps has scored a few good goals recently and done well.
“I will have a job trying to get back in the team but it’s good to have that competition. Winning the title is a big incentive for us. You want to be involved in every game but hopefully I can get back soon.”