Derek Johnstone: Rangers will need to be in Roverdrive

IT is great for the game in this country that Albion Rovers have made it through to the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup.

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Lee McCulloch would love to make it a hat-trick of Scottish Cup successes at Rangers having lifted the trophy in 2008 and 2009
Lee McCulloch would love to make it a hat-trick of Scottish Cup successes at Rangers having lifted the trophy in 2008 and 2009

The showdown at Ibrox on Sunday is probably the biggest game in the Coatbridge club's entire history.

They will take over 1,000 fans to Glasgow this weekend and I am sure every one of them will enjoy their day.

And quite right, too. Who would have thought Rovers would have gone further than Celtic in this season's national cup competition?

But Rangers are a far, far better team and should win the game comfortably to set up a semi-final against a bigger club, probably an SPFL Premiership side, at Ibrox.

No disrespect to Rovers, but I am expecting the home team to win comfortably by three, four or five goals.

Now I know that Rangers have not been especially impressive in the last few weeks, and they have slipped up against part-time opponents and drawn with Stranraer and Stenhousemuir.

Rangers should not, then, take anything for granted. But I think Ally McCoist, Kenny McDowall and Ian Durrant will have been firing up the players in training all week - and I am sure they will deliver.

Yes, Cammy Bell, Ian Black, Jon Daly, Lee McCulloch, Bilel Mohsni and their team-mates will be right up for this one.

They have a huge incentive to win - a semi-final at home. That gives them a chance to make it all the way to the final at Parkhead in May.

The supporters sense the importance of this game and I am sure there will be a full house, or not far off it, at Ibrox.

The fans know what is at stake … the chance to play against the big boys.

I think getting drawn to play against, say, Aberdeen, Dundee United or St Johnstone would let the manager know exactly where his team stood at this moment in time.

It will be the first game they have played against Premiership opposition this season. That is the level they are ultimately aspiring to play at so it will be an interesting exercise for him.

I personally think that if this Rangers team can overcome Rovers they would more than hold their own, no matter which top-flight team they came up against.

They did well against Motherwell in the League Cup at Ibrox last season, and their opponents on that occasion had been flying.

Sure, they were subsequently thumped 3-0 by both Inverness Caley Thistle at Ibrox in the League Cup and by Dundee United at Tannadice in the Scottish Cup.

But this current team is virtually unrecogniseable from the one that took the field on those occasions with the players Ally has brought in during the summer.

The performances in the league have been a bit flat, but Rangers have been home and hosed in the third tier for a long time now. That has to have had an affect on their performances.

But this is a one-off cup game. They cannot afford to fail, and I am therefore confident they will produce the foods. They certainly did so against Dunfermline in the last round.

Rangers can, depending on what Dunfermline do against Stenhousemuir at East End Park tomorrow, win the league against either Airdrie on Wednesday night or the Pars tomorrow week.

The sooner Rangers can complete the second stage of "The Journey" the better for everyone at the club.

When they finally get across the finishing line Ally can start to rest players and blood some of the kids who have been performing well at Murray Park this season.

If there are to be cutbacks at Rangers after chief executive Graham Wallace has completed his 120-day restructuring project - and it looks like there will be - then the young lads could find themselves being promoted to the first team in the 2014/15 campaign.

Some people have expressed the opinion that reaching the final would be important to Rangers financially given their current uncertain predicament.

I am not sure that making it through to the final will make a huge difference as the ticket allocation will be split for both the semi-final and the final. It will be helpful, of course, but it will not be the sort of mega money that will make a significant difference to the club.

Of course, upsets can and do happen. Nobody expected Championship side Morton to beat Celtic at Parkhead in the League Cup this season or Albion Rovers to beat Motherwell in the Scottish Cup.

But, with a semi-final match, possibly against Premiership opposition, at Ibrox as the reward for victory, I think Rangers will progress and have a chance of going all the way.

Football

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