Now is the hour...Clark turning back the clock in Nick of time for Rangers

THEY say timing is everything.

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Nicky Clark stabs the ball home past Victoria Highlanders keeper Brandon Watson
Nicky Clark stabs the ball home past Victoria Highlanders keeper Brandon Watson

For Nicky Clark, his upturn in form appears to be bang on cue.

The 23-year-old got his second goal of the pre-season yesterday morning when the Ibrox club defeated Canadian outfit Victoria Highlanders 2-1 in the third game of their North American tour.

That strike came on the back of a goal in the closed-doors game with Fulham at Murray Park.

What a difference a summer can make to a man who was labouring under the weight of expectation for much of his first year in Light Blue.

Following his switch from Queen of the South, which was carved out on the back of his 38 goals for the Dumfries club, the boyhood Rangers fan could only conjure up the modest haul of nine as he endured a stuttering campaign.

But with two goals already in the bag before a competitive ball has been kicked, and with the formidable sight of Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller arriving over the summer, Clark's goal streak has come in the nick of time.

"It's good to get some time under my belt on the pitch. We created a few chances in the first half and I was delighted to get the goal as well," he said.

"It's always good to score in pre-season and hopefully I can kick on now before the start of the season and get a few more.

"It was a good start from us against Victoria and Calum Gallagher scored a good goal, but maybe a wee bit of slackness kicked in and we gave them quite an easy goal.

"We have a few new players and it's good to get a few wins under our belt, seeing everybody playing together and building as a team."

Clark will be comforted to know his efforts have not gone unnoticed.

The striker is keen to show what he is capable of given the multitude of firepower which is now filling the Rangers armoury.

And the Light Blues No.2 Kenny McDowall believes the predatory instincts of Clark will be a key weapon for the Ibrox club in the Championship next season if the striker continues to show his early-season promise.

"He reacted well," said the Rangers assistant. "It was a good bit of play from Calum to start it off and he had a shot which the keeper spilled.

"Nicky is a predator in the box and he did really well to get up and turn it into the net and put us ahead again."

The praise of McDowall did not extend throughout the Rangers ranks, however.

Against a team that competes in the USL Premier Development League and which was only founded six years ago, complacency was allowed to creep into the Scottish side's play in a tame second half.

Ten changes had been made to the line-up which defeated Sacramento Republic 2-1 on Sunday morning as McCoist tries to discover if those on the periphery of his first-choice starting XI can be called upon if needed next season.

New signing Marius Zaliukas was the only familiar face left over from the weekend, with the likes of Steve Simonsen, Stevie Smith, Kyle Hutton, Robbie Crawford and Dean Shiels all given a start.

But McDowall admits an improvement must be made by some if the Rangers manager is going to be given a selection headache by anyone currently on the fringers at the club

He told rangers.co.uk: "We are a bit disappointed actually. We gave one or two of the second-string boys a chance and we should have been far more comfortable.

"It tailed off a bit towards the end of the second half. We're looking to kick on with our fitness and we should be doing better.

"Some boys were getting an opportunity when we are starting to build towards the start of the season.

"If they are thinking about getting into the starting XI, some of them will need to do a bit better."

It's a bold warning which McCoist will hope is heeded before their final game of their North America tour early tomorrow when the club face Ontario outfit Ottawa Fury.

SebastiEn Faure and Zaliukas will both be missing after picking up knocks in yesterday's clash, and McDowall says their conditions will be closely monitored in the coming days.

Also sidelined is Fraser Aird while Jon Daly remains back home recuperating from a small knee operation.

He added: "We won't know how both players are straight away but hopefully they will be okay.

"We don't want injuries mounting up but we brought 25 players with us to North America because of how intense our schedule is.

"When you're playing so many games in such a short timescale you can pick up injuries. We'll see how the boys are then we'll take things from there."

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