Ever-present Lewis Macleod is a silver lining for Rangers in trophy battle

LEWIS MACLEOD is in an elite group at Rangers.

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Lewis Macleod has played in all of Rangers' fixtures this season
Lewis Macleod has played in all of Rangers' fixtures this season

As one of just three players to feature in every fixture this season, he has overcome his lack of years and experience to become an integral part of Ally McCoist's plans.

He joins goalkeeper Neil Alexander and captain Lee McCulloch in the small band of ever-presents for the Light Blues, with his stature and importance to the team growing with each passing week.

The midfielder may be only aged 18 but he has quickly become part of the first-team fabric at Ibrox, settling seamlessly in the starting XI alongside summer recruit Ian Black.

On Saturday, as McCoist's side maintained their place at the top of the Irn-Bru Third Division with a 2-0 win over Stirling Albion, it was Kyle Hutton who partnered his Murray Park peer as he stepped into the fold in Black's injury-enforced absence.

Hutton has already shown he has the ability to stake his place for a regular starting jersey in the months to come and, while Macleod's burst onto the scene has increased central competition for places, he is delighted to see his fellow midfielder starring in Light Blue.

He said: "I have been really impressed by Lewis this season. He has been brilliant, the wee guy. He is always looking to go forward and be positive when he is on the ball.

"He wants to create things and try and get on the scoresheet. Unfortunately it didn't quite happen for him on Saturday. He did have a few chances, though. I am delighted for him, he has been first class for us. He is great in training and his performances have been excellent.

"Rangers are a massive club and there is a lot of expectation on us to perform and to get results and win things. For a player like Lewis to come in at just 18 and do as well as he has done is fantastic.

"It not only bodes well for him and for Rangers but also for the other young players who are going to be coming through. He has really taken his chance and done very well for us."

Both Macleod and Hutton impressed on Saturday as Stirling were brushed aside in a far more comfortable manner than the scoreline suggests.

It may have taken until the second half for David Templeton and Andy Little to clinch the points in a one-sided affair, but the margin of victory could have been far greater as McCoist's side passed up a number of clear scoring chances.

It is, of course, the Binos who have inflicted the only league defeat of the season so far on Rangers, with the 1-0 Forthbank shock the low point of the Third Division campaign.

Since then, the Light Blues have embarked on an impressive run of form that has seen them end their away day hoodoo and claim pole position in the title race.

They face promotion rivals Montrose, Elgin and Queen's Park on the road, as well as welcoming Annan and Clyde to Ibrox, before they herald in 2013.

Hutton is targeting a perfect end to a difficult year for the Gers.

He said: "We went through a wee rut when we struggled away from home and obviously we lost the game at Stirling, but we are over that now and we feel like we are up and running.

"We won't look back now. We have got a lot of games in December and, after winning on Saturday, the aim has to be to get five wins from the remaining games.

"We have to get our heads down and work hard and hopefully we can win all the games this month. We have got a good squad of players here and guys who can come in and do a job.

"We have got real quality in the squad, so I have got no doubt that we will kick on from here and move on to get a few points."

The trip to Links Park this weekend is next on the agenda for the league leaders as they look to establish a healthy advantage in the title race and ease themselves away from the chasing pack.

As the only full-time team in the Third Division, and with by far the strongest squad, the Christmas period should be negotiated fairly safely by McCoist's men.

With Templeton back in action, Fran Sandaza not far away, and the likes of Ross Perry and Emilson Cribari making good progress on the road to recovery, the pool McCoist has to choose from is far deeper than any of his promotion rivals.

Hutton knows he must grab his chance to impress while Black is sidelined and, having starred in front of a host of Light Blue legends as Rangers celebrated their 140th anniversary at the weekend, the 21-year-old must now win over another Ibrox hero.

Hutton said: "It is all about giving the manager a selection headache before each game and giving him some problems in picking a team.

"If I can come in and do well, he then has got a choice to make when Blackie is back playing again after his injury.

"All I can keep doing is working hard and trying to impress and hopefully I can play some more games.

"It was a brilliant day on Saturday, a great occasion for the club, and it was nice to be able to play a part in it all. It was a pleasure to be involved in the game."

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