Dundee prepare for Mark McGhee return as Rangers penalty award labelled 'soft'

Dundee assistant manager Simon Rusk believes things can only get better for the struggling team as Mark McGhee prepares to return to the dugout next weekend.

McGhee sat out of the sixth and last game of the touchline ban carried over from his Motherwell days as Dundee were swept aside by Rangers in the last eight of the Scottish Cup at Dens Park.

McGhee was not even at the stadium to see the 3-0 defeat as he has also been hit by Covid. But all being well the 64-year-old should make a belated appearance in the dugout when Rangers return to Dens Park next Sunday on league duty.

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Dundee have not yet won since he and Rusk replaced James McPake in the middle of last month.

Dundee assistant Simon Rusk gives instructions.Dundee assistant Simon Rusk gives instructions.
Dundee assistant Simon Rusk gives instructions.

The management team will not be lifting the Scottish Cup with Dundee this season, that’s for sure. However, there is still a chance they can steer the side away from bottom place in the league.

“His presence will be back from the players in the group,” said Rusk. “It hasn’t been an issue. We’ve had good lines of communication in terms of how we work; it’s not been too much of a blocker — apart from the fact he is not visible.

“The transfer of information has been fairly usual stuff but, for him, with the Covid situation and not being well, has exacerbated things. It’ll be great for Mark that, firstly, he gets better, and back [on the touchline] for our game next week.”

McGhee will hope Dundee get off to a better start next weekend. They were 2-0 down and all but eliminated from the cup within the opening 25 minutes here.

Dundee manager Mark McGhee.Dundee manager Mark McGhee.
Dundee manager Mark McGhee.

Rangers’ second goal came via a disputed penalty after James Tavernier fell to ground under a challenge from Ryan Sweeney.

“I have not seen it back yet,” said Rusk. “It appears soft. The feedback I am getting is it’s a questionable one but I don’t want to make excuses. I don’t think the penalty is why we lose the game.”

Of greater concern to the hosts is the injury that forced influential centre half Lee Ashcroft off just before half-time. He has only just come back from a long-term hamstring injury and looked to have aggravated the same problem.

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“It is a real blow," admitted Rusk. "He is such a big influence in the dressing room and with his character and whole-hearted approach. I have not had any feedback yet how bad it is. But the overall feeling is disappointment for him.

“We are really hoping for good news on that one,” he added. “We have to roll with the punches whether it’s with Ash or without Ash in the next couple of weeks. We have to find a way.”

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