Steven Whittaker's hot scoring spree beats Fortune and Lafferty put together

NO TIME soon is anyone likely to describe Steven Whittaker as £7million worth of striking talent. But Rangers' defender-cum-wide man is proving more potent than two forwards in the Glasgow domain whose combined transfers fees exceed that figure. The 25-year-old took his goal tally for the season to a career-best eight with the double that did for Hamilton in Tuesday night's Active Nation Scottish Cup fourth-round replay. In the past five months, between them Marc-Antoine Fortune and Ky

Indeed, in settling the tie in extra-time, Whittaker demonstrated he possesses a real predatory instinct that has eluded the struggling, near-4million, signings. For he shamelessly poached a goal from Kenny Miller by helping in a shot from his team-mate when it was about an inch from crossing the line, and in the centre of the goal, with not an opponent anywhere in sight. "I've not heard if I'm getting it or not," he admitted afterwards. "I've not seen it on television but people are saying I got it just before it crossed the line."

Whittaker's relish for nicking a goal, and the glorious manner he claimed a second shortly afterwards with a shot smeared "in the top corner" after he "got at the defender and worked a yard" suggests he could just be front-man find Rangers manager Walter Smith needs for Hearts on Saturday as he now contemplates the loss of Kenny Miller and Nacho Novo. With Kris Boyd still three weeks away from a return following a hernia operation, the midweek hamstring pull that could keep Miller out for three weeks and the ankle problem expected to sideline Novo for a fortnight hasn't exactly left Smith with many options. Especially when Lafferty could not feature against Hamilton because of flu and Steven Naismith is out.

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Whittaker is a full-back who appears far more comfortable going forward, as he did from the left flank in the latter stages of the cup replay. Going all the way forward isn't something he discounts, even if Lee McCulloch is likely to get the nod. "In my younger days I played up front," Whittaker admitted. "I played off the front two when I was a youth player then gradually worked my way wide to either right, left or full-back.

"I can play wide or even centre midfield. I have filled in there before for Rangers. Again, it's a great club to be at and as long as I'm playing I will be happy.

"Kris Boyd's our main goal threat and he and Kenny Miller linked up well over December. With Kris out I feel we have lost a bit of fluency, as they had played so well as a pair. But it's nice for other people to chip in with some goals. Nacho's got a couple and I have got a couple.

"We will still go into the Hearts game and try to win, no matter who is out on the pitch.

"The boys who come in will look on it as an opportunity to come in and show what they are made of. I'm sure they will jump at the chance to have a starting slot."

Whittaker is "creeping towards double figures" and hopes to reach that. He spent the last ten minutes of the replay trying to reach the figure three for the night, his desperation to bring up that landmark caused him to go for an outrageously ambitious shot at the end when he should have laid the ball off.

"I was being a bit greedy," he confessed. "I saw the glory. I've got a couple of doubles to my name but never a hat-trick.

"The next stage for me is to get that."

Greed, selfishness, shooting power. Whittaker has all the striking attributes.