EXCLUSIVE: Elgin embarrassment stirs passion in Ian Black to prove Rangers' class all over again

IAN Black today promised brassed-off Rangers fans there will be no more slip-ups during the Irn-Bru Third Division title run-in.

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Ian Black says Rangers players can deal with great expectations
Ian Black says Rangers players can deal with great expectations

Black and his Gers team- mates slumped to a highly embarrassing 1-1 draw with part-time minnows Elgin City at Ibrox on Saturday.

Ally McCoist's side dominated the showdown with Ross Jack's team, but they failed to capitalise on the goalscoring chances they created.

That came at a cost when goalkeeper Neil Alexander fumbled the ball into his own net late on.

Despite their 17-point lead over nearest challengers Queen's Park at the top of the table, the Light Blues were booed off the park by their own fans after the final whistle.

Supporters of the 54-times Scottish champions have never been satisfied with anything less than outright victory domestically.

And that demand for success has not dissipated at all despite their heroes' well-documented off-field problems last year.

Black readily accepts both the performance and the result were completely unacceptable and has vowed to help Gers to get back to winning ways.

He said: "The scoreline was disappointing, no doubt about it. We are professionals and we need to concentrate for the full 90 minutes.

"Unfortunately, we didn't do that on Saturday. We switched off at the very end and we were punished for that.

"But we aren't going to think about what happened on Saturday. It is done and dusted. We are going to concentrate on our next game and try to win it.

"We just have to take it game by game and try to make sure we take three points from every match we are involved in."

Before the weekend fixture with Elgin, there had been talk about Rangers breaking all sorts of records in the Third Division this season.

It was suggested they could beat the points total of 80 set in the fourth tier by the now-defunct Gretna back in their all-conquering 2004/05 campaign.

And it has also been widely anticipated the Gers can sew up a Scottish title earlier than any other club since records began.

Morton clinched the First Division title in 1963/64 on March 14 – no other club in this country has ever done so sooner.

Those predictions seemed fanciful at the weekend, though, when Alexander failed to hold a Stuart Leslie header.

Black refuted suggestions that speculation about what Rangers can achieve, and the size of their lead at the top of the Third Division table, has caused some players to switch off.

He said: "We are a big club, we are big players and we can deal with that. It is nothing to do with the size of lead we have or anything else.

"We were unfortunate on Saturday. We should have killed them off. But we all know we can't afford to relax until the league is actually won."

Black revealed none of the Rangers players held Alexander responsible for the draw despite his late lapse in concentration and stressed they still have complete faith in him.

The former Hearts man is also confident young guns like Chris Hegarty, Kyle Hutton, Barrie McKay, Lewis Macleod and Ross Perry – who were all involved against Elgin at the weekend – will bounce back after the disappointing result.

He said: "One player doesn't win or lose games for a team. There are 11 individuals on the park at any one time. We win and lose as a team.

"We will have to talk to them after this and make sure their heads don't go down, make sure their spirits are still high.

"But, to be honest, they talk to us as well. I learn things off them all the time and I am sure they learn things off the older boys.

"I am sure we will all be fine. We have a game this Saturday against Berwick and we are looking forward to it already."

Black has been outspoken about the treatment Rangers players have suffered at the hands of opposing teams in the Third Division in recent months.

The 27-year-old, who signed from Hearts in the summer, has a reputation for being one of Scotland's hardest, individuals.

But this season the sinner has definitely been sinned against as he has been subjected to a succession of X-rated challenges from rival players.

The Elgin game was by no means the worst example of that, but Paul Harkins was still shown a straight red card by referee John Beaton for a late tackle on Black.

The midfielder, who will serve a one-match suspension later this month after picking up his sixth booking of the season against Annan, is pleased match officials appear to be taking action.

He said: "I appreciated that playing at this level would be tough at times. I thought I would be used to it because I have played in the lower leagues before.

"I don't think any of us mind that, though, as long as the referees stand up and say enough is enough when bad challenges are made on players."


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