Recent past makes Walter Smith wary despite healthy gap

RANGERS manager Walter Smith last night refused to read any significance into his team extending their SPL lead over Celtic to ten points.

A 2-0 win for his men at St Mirren Park, coupled with their rivals' first home league defeat in 17 months, allowed the Ibrox side to open up a double-figure advantage at the top of the table for the first time since the early months of 2008.

But the fact that season ultimately ended in Celtic's pipping them for the title no doubt figured in Smith's nonplussed reaction to a hugely-satisfying night's events.

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"We have had a situation over the last couple of seasons when there have been seven-point gaps overturned, so you are never happy," Smith said, a reference to the fact that his team clawed back this deficit a year ago.

"We are happy to be top of the league, happy to have the points but it doesn't mean anything other than we have to show the consistency to get results.

"You have always got to be wary. In the last two seasons there has been a turnaround in a points differential and the only thing we can try to do is show the same consistency that we did in the second half of last season. If we do that it will be all to the good."

Smith praised his players for their "good, winning attitude" and ability to get result out of games when they didn't have the desired fluency. "Even when we are not at our best we still grind out results," he added.

The win in Paisley was an example of this ability, even when he had forward players Kenny Miller and Nacho Novo back from injuries that, along with the loss of Kris Boyd after a hernia operation, have disrupted his team's rhythm since their free-scoring December.

Miller was forced off after feeling the hamstring that has troubled him of late and could be a doubt for the weekend. "It seemed to be troubling him the longer the game went on," Smith said.

Meanwhile, Andrew Little has urged fellow Rangers youngsters John Fleck and Danny Wilson to commit their futures to the club.

Northern Ireland international Little played in the same youth teams as fellow forward Fleck and defender Wilson, who have been offered new contracts by the Scottish champions.

Fleck has resumed negotiations following a misunderstanding with his agent. It was recently reported both Fleck and Wilson had rejected new deals, with Smith expressing concerns the pair, both 18, were putting the prospect of lucrative moves to England before their careers.

However, the Rangers manager has revealed Fleck was unaware negotiations were even taking place on his behalf and instructed his representative to resume talks.

Little, who netted a last-gasp equaliser in Saturday's Premier League game with Hearts, said: "We want as many of the young boys to stay at Rangers as possible and make successes of themselves here.

"We have all come through the various youth stages and have won trophies playing in teams at that level. The more of us that push on into the first team the better."