Walter Smith says Rangers will need a lot of luck to negotiate fixture pile up

RANGERS manager Walter Smith has expressed renewed fears over his squad's capacity to cope with a fixture backlog in the new year after their scheduled game against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park tonight was postponed.

The trip to Perth was called off yesterday morning for safety reasons by police with the area surrounding the stadium, which has not hosted a match since 13 November, still affected by the adverse weather conditions.

It is the fourth SPL match Rangers have lost to the current cold spell, joining home games against Hearts and St Mirren and a twice-postponed visit to Dundee United in needing to be rearranged for the second half of the season. In addition, Rangers will have to reschedule their home game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle which was originally due to take place at the end of January but has been postponed because of their Co-operative Insurance Cup semi-final against Motherwell at Hampden that weekend.

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Free midweek dates will be at a premium between now and the end of the season for the Ibrox club whose involvement in the Europa League and Scottish Cup must also be factored in by the SPL in finding new dates for the outstanding matches.

With Rangers currently operating with a squad of just 20 players who have significant senior experience, Smith is wary of the problems they could encounter during what is likely to be a congested final five months of the campaign.

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Having been informed he will be unable to recruit any new players during the January transfer window, Smith also faces an anxious wait to see if potential offers for any of his existing squad can be resisted.

"We could have done without the call off at Perth," observed Smith. "We are not the best equipped squad to handle a whole glut of games in the second half of the season, but we can't do anything about it.

"We will need a little bit of good fortune in terms of injuries to handle the games that will come along. You can probably add suspensions along with injuries in the second half of the season and we are five games down now.

"We have to rearrange them around two Europa League games, hopefully more. It'll mean a couple of months of midweek games for us. As I say, we'll need a bit of luck to be able to handle that situation.

"It makes it difficult when there are Scottish Cup replays to take into account as well. You can't organise league games when there could be Scottish Cup replays, so it starts to become more complicated. We would hope there would not be any more games off. It's certainly not to our advantage that we are in this situation.

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"With the break in the weather over the past few days, we had hoped the game in Perth would be on. After playing well at Motherwell on Sunday, we were looking forward to another game, but it's not to be."

Smith's focus will now turn to Sunday's Old Firm match at Ibrox.If Celtic defeat Motherwell tonight, Rangers will go into the weekend one point behind their great rivals at the top of the SPL table, albeit having played two games less.

Rangers remain hopeful Steven Naismith, who limped out of their impressive 4-1 win at Fir Park last Sunday with a hamstring problem, will recover in time to face Celtic.

"The good news is that he hasn't got a full-blown hamstring injury," said Smith. "We think it is something coming from his lower back. He would have missed the St Johnstone game had it gone ahead, but we will know about the Old Firm game later in the week."

Longer term absentees Kirk Broadfoot, Maurice Edu and Nikica Jelavic will again be unavailable at the weekend, but Smith will have strikers Kyle Lafferty and James Beattie at his disposal following their latest lay-offs.

"They are both back in training," added Smith.