They've graduated from the third tier... now Nicky wants to do it with honours

RANGERS have passed their most important test with flying colours this season as their primary mission has been accomplished.

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Nicky Clark with his proud father Sandy, then assistant manager at Queen of the South, with the Ramsden's Cup they won last year
Nicky Clark with his proud father Sandy, then assistant manager at Queen of the South, with the Ramsden's Cup they won last year

Now Ally McCoist's side are bidding for extra credit as they look to go one, and maybe two, steps further than was expected at the start of the season.

Anything other than a convincing capture of the League One title would have been deemed a failure for Rangers considering the squad McCoist was able to build in the summer, but a big season has become a huge week for the Gers.

They will face Raith Rovers in the Ramsdens Cup final at Easter Road tomorrow aiming to complete a double that was always within their reach.

Then, at Ibrox a week today, they will take on a Dundee United side flying high in the Premiership and favourites to book a Scottish Cup final berth against Aberdeen or St Johnstone next month.

One piece of silverware is already glistening in the Ibrox trophy cabinet, but it is the pursuit of further accolades that drives McCoist's side on.

"Obviously, the league was our primary goal to help get the club back to where we belong, but the cups would be a good bonus as well," striker Nicky Clark said.

"We've got a great chance of winning this one tomorrow and it's followed by the semi-final against Dundee United.

"It would be good to win these next two games."

Clark already has a Ramsdens winner's medal in his collection thanks to a victory over Partick Thistle 12 months ago in one of the most memorable finals this competition has ever seen, with the forward's extra-time strike not enough to clinch the win for Queen of the South.

The Jags would miss a penalty, have Aaron Muirhead sent off and equalise through Kris Doolan before the game was finally won on penalties, keeper Lee Robinson, who will line up for Rovers tomorrow, emerging as the hero.

"It was a good day all round," the former Doonhamers star said. "If this final is anything like last season's it will be dramatic again.

"Hopefully not, hopefully we can get the job done before that. It was crazy game but very good to play in, a great atmosphere."

The chance to lift the third cup in Scottish football is not one Rangers fans would have relished even a couple of years ago but tomorrow will mark another milestone for the club.

The Light Blue legions have suffered plenty of pain in recent years as the Gers have fallen from their perch.

And Clark reckons Ramsdens glory would be welcomed and savoured by the Ibrox faithful as The Journey continues to gather momentum.

He said: "It will be great for us. The fans have been great for us all season and last year, too, I know, even though I wasn't here. To go and win a cup for them to add to the league will be great.

"I think it could mean more to the fans after everything they've gone through. This is the first cup final after everything that has gone on at the club in recent years and it would be great to go on and win it and bring the trophy back for the fans."

Even if Rangers can rise to the occasion and see off Grant Murray's side in the capital tomorrow afternoon, the champions are unlikely to be showered with praise from outside the Ibrox dressing room.

HAVING acquired a host of Premiership-standard stars in the close season, Rangers were always expected to ease to the League One crown.

Their run to the title has been relentless, if not always impressive on the eye, but their success has failed to win widespread acclaim.

"I don't think we're ever going to get the credit we ­deserve," Clark said. "I don't think people really understand how hard it is to go to places such as Brechin and Arbroath.

"They are really hard places to go and win, but we've done it throughout the season. People expect us to win five, six and seven-nil every week but that just doesn't happen.

"We've still gone up to those places and got the results. We're not really bothered if we get the credit or not because we know how well we are doing."

While Rangers have improved from last season, Clark has been unable to replicate his remarkable scoring feats.

The 22-year-old hit more than 40 goals as the Doonhamer's clinched a Second Division and Ramsdens Cup double and now he is aiming to end the season in style after returning from a broken foot that kept him out for several weeks.

He said: "It was just after Christmas I picked up my injury but I'm back now and the match fitness is returning and I'm coming back at a good time for the big games.

"I've been happy. It is obviously difficult coming to such a big club and settling in but it's not just me, all the new boys who have come in have done really well.

"We've gelled together very well and you've seen that in our performances throughout the season. I have really enjoyed it."

And was he under extra pressure because of his scoring record last season? No, but he added: "There's pressure on us all, it's a massive club and we must be ready for it."

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