JON Daly has claimed the biggest threat to Rangers’ hopes of reviving their Championship title hopes tonight could come from the conduct of the Hearts players at Ibrox.
The Irish striker has reiterated his criticism of how Robbie Neilson’s men reacted to challenges during their 2-0 win over Rangers when the teams last met at Tynecastle in a bruising encounter two months ago. Rangers were reduced to ten men after just 21 minutes on that occasion when Stevie Smith was sent off for a foul on Callum Paterson, with another nine players – five of them from Rangers – booked by referee Craig Thomson.
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Hearts full-back Kevin McHattie was carried off on a stretcher after sustaining a serious knee injury when fouled by Rangers striker Kenny Miller. However, Daly hit out at the Gorgie side after the match, suggesting they were “trying to con the ref” and accusing Paterson of “screaming like he’s been shot by a sniper”.
• http://www.scotsman.com/sport/football/spfl-lower-divisions/fraser-aird-rangers-are-better-than-hearts-1-3661814|Fraser Aird: Rangers are better than Hearts|link to article}
The Rangers front man is unrepentant ahead of tonight’s pivotal meeting of the teams at Ibrox and is anxious that referee Bobby Madden is given no reason to be unduly influenced.
“I felt the last time that Hearts went down fairly easily and rolled about a bit,” said Daly. “I still think they did and my opinion hasn’t changed. That’s something we are going to have to be wary of this time around and make sure we don’t give the referee any decisions to make.
“When you go into a tackle, you are obviously going in to win the ball. If a player reacts the way he does, that’s their decision to do so. That’s not the way I play the game. As I’m sure you are all well aware, I play the game hard and fair. If I get hit, I take it and move on.
“But that’s something that we need to be wary of, that we don’t make any rash tackles that are going to incite the away fans and give the ref a decision to make. The referees have difficult jobs and they can only judge things on what they see. If they see players acting the way they [Hearts] do, it obviously makes their job more difficult.
“You see it throughout the country and down south as well. It’s something that’s crept into the game over the years and it’s not something that I am a fan of. But that’s probably football nowadays – the game has changed that way and it’s something that we have to deal with.”
Hearts travel to Ibrox with the comfort of a 13-point lead over Rangers in the race for automatic promotion to the Premiership. But Daly believes a home victory tonight could yet prove to be a game-changer in the title race. “If we win we’ll have clawed the gap from 15 points to ten points in the last couple of weeks – that’s 33 per cent off it. It’s a big chunk of points. We’d still need Hearts to drop points elsewhere and make sure we do our own job as well and keep winning games.
“We’ve obviously got ourselves into this situation by dropping silly points ourselves. I wouldn’t say Hearts will be panicking if we beat them, but it might just plant a seed of doubt.
“It would be their first defeat in the league which would be a big blow for them as well. Hopefully, we can do that. It would give other teams the confidence to go on and play against Hearts and see that they can be beaten.
“I wouldn’t say it’s demoralising, but it’s obviously frustrating for us when we come in after winning a game to find out Hearts have won again. They’re winning games every week and it’s up to us to put a stop to that by winning this one and giving other teams the view that it can be done.
“It is a massive game we need to win. I still believe we can catch Hearts and I’m sure the rest of the boys do too, but that has to start with a win against them. If we weren’t to win the game, it makes the job more difficult. Hearts have done extremely well and are very confident at the moment. That’s a massive thing in football. But I wouldn’t imagine they are looking at the title just yet – it will just be game by game. That’s what we really need to start doing and, obviously, that starts against a very good Hearts team.”
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