No tubthumping as bruised Blues focus on battle for the title

THEY get knocked down, but they get up again.

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Fraser Aird is hoping to build on his man of the match performance against Dunfermline
Fraser Aird is hoping to build on his man of the match performance against Dunfermline

Rangers may be winning the war in League One this season as they romp towards title glory, but Ally McCoist's side have suffered their share of battle scars along the way.

The Light Blues' patience has snapped in recent weeks, with McCoist and his players speaking out at the treatment they have received from their opponents after a series of bruising encounters.

Bilel Mohnsi was sent off in the aftermath of the Gers' fiery encounter with Airdrie earlier this month following a number of confrontations throughout the match and an argument with Diamonds boss Gary Bollan.

On the same night, Ian Black picked up a suspension because he lashed out after being on the wrong end of another crunching challenge.

Defender Richard Foster has only just returned to action following an injury sustained against Dunfermline last year, with McCoist expressing his sympathy for his players as they have become the target for reckless challenges.

Black often finds himself in the heat of the battle, but Ibrox team-mate Fraser Aird has backed the midfielder to handle the provocation and physical duels.

"Everyone can see he gets them and he is a bit hard done by in some situations," he said.

"That's football - he is going to get challenges from boys who will probably never get the chance to play against him again in their career, so I think they are maybe trying to make a name for themselves.

"He has played at the highest level in Scottish football and he just gets on with it. He's a big enough man to stand up to the challenges and he can give as good as he gets.

"The wee man has got to get on with his game and, to be fair, he has been brilliant this year.

"I don't know (if he gets singled out). I'm not on the other team so I don't know what their managers are saying.

"The position he plays in the middle of the park means the tackles are going to fly in. I think he's just got to get used to that and he's taken it and got on with his game."

Black is not the only Ibrox star to suffer at the hands of Gers' over-zealous lower-league rivals this season as the tackles have flown in throughout the campaign.

Teams often look to close the gulf in class by utilising a physical approach to ruffle Rangers' feathers, but Aird knows he will have to take the rough with the smooth.

He said: "That's going to happen. Everyone wants to beat Rangers. It was the same in the SPL.

"But, for me, I am playing against older men - maybe 10 years older than me - and if they can't catch me they are going to try to kick me. That's just the game and we have to get on with it."

After emerging unscathed from three away fixtures in succession over the festive period, Rangers return to Ibrox this afternoon aiming to extend their unbeaten run.

McCoist's side blew their chances of recording a perfect campaign with a poor performance to draw 1-1 at home to Stranraer last month as they dropped their only points of the season to date.

The Ibrox legions made their feelings clear with a furious backlash, but Aird hopes wins at Airdrie, Dunfermline and Stenhousemuir have banished the Boxing Day blues.

He said: "The boys are looking forward to being at home for the first time since then.

"We were disappointed with how that went, but we have looked at it, took what we needed from the game, and hopefully we can go out and build on it against East Fife.

"The boys knew the criticism was coming because we didn't fire on all cylinders that day and weren't good enough on the day. Stranraer deserved their point.

"The players knew we weren't good enough and the gaffer told us that.

"We went out and won 4-0 at Dunfermline in the next game, so that shows the strength of the squad.

"We have to move on and get the result against East Fife."

The festive schedule may have been a hectic one for McCoist and his players, but Aird has made the most of the quickfire run of games.

The Gers youngster was the star man in their win at East End Park and he hopes there is plenty more to come as he bids to hold down a starting slot.

Aird said: "It was a big confidence boost for me, getting a goal and two assists that night.

"It was the first time I'd got a man of the match for Rangers, so it was a big honour for me and my family. Hopefully I can build on that and have a couple more games like that as the season goes on."

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