McCoist won’t be drawn on Novo return as need for reinforcements intensifies

RANGERS manager Ally McCoist will attempt to intensify his search for striking reinforcements this week after being left with just one fit centre forward to call upon.

Leading goalscorer Nikica Jelavic missed yesterday’s 3-0 win over Motherwell at Ibrox because of a groin strain and Kyle Lafferty lasted just nine minutes before sustaining a hamstring tear which is expected to rule him out of action for at least four weeks.

With Steven Naismith already a long-term absentee because of a serious knee injury and youngster Kane Hemmings also sidelined, David Healy is the only out and out striker available to McCoist.

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The 32-year-old Northern Ireland international made the most of a rare starting appearance yesterday, scoring the first goal in a comfortable victory for the SPL champions as they responded to being knocked off the top of the table by Celtic five days earlier.

McCoist was non-committal last night about speculation over a return to the club for Sporting Gijon striker Nacho Novo, who has spent time training at Murray Park during the Spanish League’s winter break, but will stress to his chairman and owner Craig Whyte the need to bolster his squad up front.

“I only sat down briefly with Craig before the game today because there was a lot going on,” said McCoist. “But I’ll sit down with him tonight or tomorrow and we’ll have a wee chat to see where we are.

“Obviously, we need strengthened in forward areas. The injuries to Jelavic and Naimsith and now Lafferty haven’t done anything to change my opinion. We need bodies in. I couldn’t put a figure on it and say we need three, four or five or whatever. But, as happy as we were with the performance today, we need bodies. I have a list of names. I know what we want and what we need.”

Asked if Novo was among those on his list, McCoist delivered a diplomatic response. “Nacho was back for Christmas and New Year and he came in to do a bit of training with us,” said McCoist. “Obviously, we welcomed him with open arms and I have to tell you, the wee man looked great. But I can’t say any more than that. I can’t rule anything in or out at this stage.”

Jelavic’s absence was grist to the rumour mill as the Croatian international continues to be linked with a move to the English Premier League during the current transfer window.

“He had a groin strain and although he wanted to have a go this morning, which he did do, he wasn’t fit enough to play,” said McCoist. “David Healy came in and his performance was really good. In recent weeks the ball has not been sticking with our frontmen well enough. But David did that well for us and brought other people into the game.” McCoist also had praise for John Fleck, who replaced the injured Lafferty, and confirmed that the 20-year-old is now set to stay at Rangers for the rest of the season despite earlier intentions to loan him out to Sheffield United. “That might have to go on the back burner now,” said McCoist. “John played well when he came on and, with the injuries we now have, it’s doubtful he’ll be going anywhere in this window.”

One player McCoist has lost is midfielder Thomas Bendiksen, who has turned down a new contract offer from Rangers to return home to Norway and sign for Tromso.

Motherwell manager Stuart McCall was left to rue a dismal display from his side, whose hold on third place in the SPL is coming under increasing pressure. “With Rangers being without Jelavic, Naismith and then Lafferty, we might never have had a better chance of taking something here,” said McCall. “There was just a lack of belief today. Only our goalkeeper played well.”