THE bruising encounter with Airdrie underlined once again that Rangers players need more protection from referees in SPFL League One.

But, at the same time, I think the Ibrox club's players have to accept they are going to come in for some rough treatment in the third tier and learn how to deal with it.

When you have one team which is far more skilful than their opponents - as is the case whenever Rangers play in the league - then they have to expect a tough time.

The only way these teams are going to stop Rangers is by getting in about them. That is just a fact.

They are a full-time team playing against part-time opponents and there are going to be late challenges being made.

The Rangers players have to learn to accept that is part and parcel of the game at the level they are at.

As a former defender myself, I know what is required when you are up against a skilful player. You can't just let him skip by you.

Having said that, the match officials do have to be a bit harder on the players who overstep the mark in games.

Bilel Mohsni ran the ball out of play during the game against Airdrie. An opposing player went up and shoved him right out of the park.

And what did the official do? Absolutely nothing!

If it had happened in the middle of the park it would have been an automatic yellow card. Things like that have to be stamped out.

Referees have got to realise that too many challenges being made against Rangers players are illegal.

Some of the tackles which were going in at the Excelsior Stadium were very meaty. But, as I always say, it is a man's game.

Rangers are the big team in the division they are in. They are the big scalp for opposition teams to claim.

If Rangers are allowed to pass the ball around in midfield they are going to win the game.

Ian Black's booking - which will lead to him getting a suspension - was ridiculous.

He had been tackled late on two or three occasions. The last time it happened he snapped and shoved his opponent in the chest.

But he knew the lad was going to get booked for it. So it was a really daft reaction. The Rangers players have to accept the reality of the situation they are in.

Mohsni in particular. I spoke to Paul Sturrock, who managed him at Southend, about the centre-half after he signed for Rangers in the summer.

Paul told me he was a decent player. But he also stressed that he was booked in just about every match that he played down in England and had also been sent off on a few occasions.

Paul told me his discipline would have to be watched.

In the first few months of the season, Bilel was fine. But in the last half dozen matches or so he has responded badly to the challenges he has been subjected to.

He is a centre-half who likes to get forward and attack. So he is going to get targeted. If he just sat back and defended it would not be an issue.

But he likes to attack. And good on him I say. But he has to accept that he is going to be the subject of some attention from defenders.

And he has to learn how to keep his composure, He is a big lad, 6ft 3in, so he should be big enough to handle the attention he receives.

Ally has said he is going to speak to him and I think having a quiet word will be no bad thing.

He is the sort of player you want available every week.

I think the players, then, have to accept they are going to be kicked at times. Their opponents are always going to give 100% against them.

The majority of bookings Ally's players are picking up are for retaliation and that has to stop. Yes, they need protection from the referee and his assistants. However, they have to calm themselves down.

It was worrying to see Lewis Macleod limping off towards the end of the Airdrie game the other night.

But the sort of treatment he has received will ultimately stand him in good stead.

Lewis, Fraser Aird and Robbie Crawford will all have grown up this season and matured as players as a result of the exposure to the harsh realities of first-team football at this level.

It is a steep learning curve but they will benefit from it.

Readers who submit articles must agree to our terms of use. The content is the sole responsibility of the contributor and is unmoderated. But we will react if anything that breaks the rules comes to our attention. If you wish to complain about this article, contact us here