RANGERS will be without captain Lee McCulloch and goalkeeper Steve Simonsen for just one game of the Championship promotion run-in after the pair were both found guilty at their respective SFA Judicial Panel hearings.
McCulloch was unsuccessful in contesting the two-match suspension offered to him by SFA Compliance Officer Tony McGlennan for stamping on the back of striker Dale Carrick during Rangers’ Scottish Cup fifth-round defeat at home to Raith Rovers last Sunday.
The 36-year-old central defender has been handed an immediate one-match ban, ruling him out of tonight’s meeting with Hibs at Ibrox, with a further one-match suspension to be served in his club’s next Scottish Cup tie.
Simonsen will also miss out against Hibs after receiving a two-match ban, one of which is suspended until the end of the season, for breaching SFA regulations on gambling in football.
The 35-year-old English goalkeeper made bets on 55 matches over a 12-month period. It is understood all were for small amounts, totalling around £200, and none were on matches involving his own team.
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Simonsen is the second Rangers player to fall foul of the SFA’s new zero tolerance stance on gambling on football. Midfielder Ian Black was fined £7,500 and given a ten-match suspension, seven of them suspended, in September 2013 for placing 160 bets over a seven-year period.
Former Ayr United striker Michael Moffat, now at Dunfermline, is the only other player to have fallen foul of the gambling ban so far. He was banned for six games, reduced to four on appeal, for placing 157 bets between February 2012 and September 2013. Rangers caretaker assistant manager Gordon Durie confirmed that Simonsen will not be appealing against the verdict delivered at yesterday’s Hampden hearing. Durie is hopeful it delivers a clear message which ensures no-one else from the Ibrox club faces a similar charge in future.
“I have spoken to Steve and he knows himself that he has done wrong,” said Durie. “He admitted it and will take his punishment. We will move on from there.
“I just hope it is a lesson to everyone else that you can’t do it. PFA Scotland came in at the start of the season and spoke to the boys about the gambling rules.
“This is a wee warning again that the SFA are watching what the boys are doing so hopefully it won’t happen again.
“I’ve no idea how it happened again after what happened with Ian Black. You would have to ask Steve that. But he has admitted that he has done wrong and we can move on from it.”
Asked if he felt Simonsen’s sentence was lenient in comparison to the punishment given to Black, Durie replied: “I wasn’t on the committee who decided it, so I don’t know what happened there. But Steve will take his punishment and move on.”
With Rangers’ first-choice goalkeeper Cammy Bell still recovering from the shoulder injury he suffered in August, the absence of Simonsen will hand a rare first-team opportunity tonight to Lee Robinson.
The 28-year-old will make only his second starting appearance for the Ibrox club, with 20-year-old Liam Kelly providing back-up on the bench.
“It is Lee’s chance,” added Durie. “He has had to wait a long time. He has played a few games with the development side recently, so he is not going in cold.
“He has played a few games in the last few weeks. We knew this was a possibility with Steve’s case. So it is Lee’s chance to go in and show what he can do.”
Rangers’ options for replacing McCulloch in central defence are limited by injuries to on-loan Newcastle player Remie Streete and Bilel Mohsni, who has returned from Africa Cup of Nations duty with Tunisia, leaving Marius Zaliukas and Sebastian Faure in contention to partner Darren McGregor.