Dawson: Rangers can play underdog role well

ALLY DAWSON can't quite get his head around the fact that Rangers are approaching a home Scottish Cup semi-final tie as underdogs.

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Ally Dawson (with trophy, beside Derek Johnstone) hails Gers' 1981 Scottish Cup success
Ally Dawson (with trophy, beside Derek Johnstone) hails Gers' 1981 Scottish Cup success

The former Scottish Cup- winning Rangers skipper led the Light Blues to victory over United via a replay success back in 1981 and is used to the Ibrox club ruling the roost in Scotland.

However, times have changed and he believes that the tag of underdogs - even on their hallowed soil - combined with the criticism of the Govan giants in the wake of Sunday's Ramsdens Cup final defeat at the hands of Raith Rovers, can have a galvanising effect on Gers.

Dawson also reckons that the former top-flight men featuring in the League One champions' line-up against Jackie McNamara's Tangerines will be determined to prove the point they can still cut the competitive mustard against top-tier opposition.

The Light Blues legend, who made 316 appearances for Rangers, scoring eight goals en route to winning two Scottish Cup winner's medals and four League Cup winner's badges, is also hoping that a horrific casualty list will clear in time for his former club to start on the front foot on Saturday.

All of which has led Dawson to back his former club to confound the critics and provide beleaguered boss Ally McCoist with a shot at redemption by making the Scottish Cup final at Parkhead.

The Rangers Hall of Fame inductee said: "Dundee United will be going into Saturday's Scottish Cup semi-final as favourites, even although it is at Ibrox.

"I think a few factors contribute to that, not least the Ramsdens Cup final defeat suffered by Rangers at the hands of Raith Rovers. But it is still a strange thing, as I can't recall the last time Rangers would have entered a game of this magnitude as underdogs at Ibrox.

"But I think it is something that can work to their advantage. There was an awful lot of pressure on Rangers against Raith through at Easter Road and the longer the game went without scoring the more it intensified.

"For Raith they were quite happy to sit in and soak things up and the positive for Rangers, if there was one from Sunday, was that they still created a good few chances.

"The lad Bilel Moshni should have scored with at least one of his headers and Nicky Law has hit the bar, while Stevie Smith has been unlucky and Lee Robinson produced a couple of great saves in the Rovers goal.

"With respect to United, they are the Premiership team, and a decent one at that who play an attacking brand of football and that may well suit Rangers. But whatever way you look at it, regardless of the tie being at Ibrox, United must start favourites."

Gers' hopes of completing the second leg of a domestic treble at Easter Road were severely hampered by injury on Sunday.

Lee Wallace was forced off with a thigh strain while Ian Black was hampered by a foot injury picked up at Brechin, Law was below-par with an ongoing back problem and Jon Daly and Nicky Clark also less than fully fit.

Ahead of Saturday, manager McCoist will definitely still be without Lewis Macleod while hamstring victims Andy Little and David Templeton remain doubtful.

But Dawson remains positive that the pain of the Raith reverse, combined with a determination to make home advantage count, can help the club he led with such dignity reach their first Scottish Cup final since 2010.

He said: "For the experienced lads like Ian Black, Nicky Law and, of course, Jon Daly, who will be back playing against his former club, there is an awful lot to prove.

"Alistair (McCoist) cherry- picked them from SPL clubs and brought them to Ibrox to help Rangers complete the journey back to the top of the domestic game. Games against top-flight opposition have obviously been few and far between because of Rangers' league status and these lads will be so motivated for this one.

"Last season it was a mixed bag with Rangers beating Motherwell and losing to Inverness in the League Cup and losing to United in the Scottish Cup, and the boys who have come to the club from the top flight will be out to make a point.

"On top of that, although United are a fine footballing team, they are a young one and can be a bit inconsistent, so it will be very interesting to see how they will cope with the tag of being favourites."

With the red, white and blue legions having packed out Easter Road for the reverse against Raith, Dawson has no doubt that the players must produce a performance that will repay the supporters' loyalty.

He said: "The support, as always, has been incredibly loyal and Alistair will have the players in no doubt that they owe the fans a really big performance.

"Hopefully they can use the Raith game as a motivation and bring all of their frustration to bear against United."

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