Walter Smith plays down talk of 'injustice' to focus on sloppy first-half

RANGERS manager Walter Smith resisted attempts to be drawn into the furore surrounding Scottish referees as he accepted Craig Thomson's controversial decision to deny his team a goal at a potentially crucial stage of their 3-1 victory at St Mirren Park yesterday.

With the match goalless, St Mirren goalkeeper Craig Samson diverted a Vladimir Weiss corner into his own net. To the fury of the Rangers players, referee Thomson ruled it out for an infringement, apparently citing Steven Naismith for a push on Saints defender Jure Travner.

Rangers were able to brush the controversy aside on the pitch, surging into a 3-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, and Smith was equally determined to be unmoved by it as he faced the media afterwards. "The referee says there was a foul in the box, not on the St Mirren keeper, but on another player in the penalty area," said Smith.

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Asked if his players had been fired up by a sense of injustice as a result of the incident, Smith replied: "Injustice is a strong word to use, isn't it? It is hardly an injustice. The ref said he saw a foul and if he saw it, that's it. If you operate in a tabloid world, then maybe it's an injustice. No doubt we will write to the SFA to ask for an explanation. That's a joke, by the way."

Samson admitted to a sense of relief at escaping being punished for his blunder. "I thought it was goal," said the keeper. "There was no foul on me, I just made a mistake and put the ball into the net. I don't know if there was a foul elsewhere."

Smith was more concerned by the lethargy of his own players in a tedious first half in which they were subdued by their bottom-of-the-table opponents.

"We had a lot of possession in the first half without really creating a great deal of opportunities," said Smith. "St Mirren were very well set up and made it awkward for us to get through them. We need to lift the pace of our game which we did at the start of the second half. We created a number of opportunities and managed to get three goals in that period. That was by far our best spell of the game and we needed to produce it."

Smith praised the contribution of Kyle Lafferty who replaced the injured Vladimir Weiss at half-time. "Kyle played very well and was instrumental in a couple of our goals," said Smith. "But the team generally started with far more purpose in the second half."

After a Marc McAusland own goal and a Steven Naismith tap-in had put Rangers 2-0 up, Kenny Miller gave them breathing space with his 14th goal of the season before Michael Higdon pulled one back from the penalty spot for St Mirren.

"We were pretty poor in the first half today," said Miller, "and I was disappointed with the way I played personally. I thought I was off the pace. But I was pleased to get another goal.If you don't play well, you are judged on how many goals you score, while if you don't score, people judge you on your performance."

St Mirren manager Danny Lennon said: "We frustrated Rangers in the first half and I told the players at half-time it was all about maintaining concentration levels. But we gifted them a goal at the start of the second half, got picked off too easily for their second goal and then conceded the third with the kind of error you can't legislate for."