PAUL McCOLL is challenging his Cambuslang Rangers players to stretch their lead atop the Central First Division to six points by chalking up a victory at home to Lesmahagow tomorrow.

A storming start to their league campaign had the Wee Gers considered runaway leaders and champions elect at one point, however a recent dismal sequence of results…just seven points gleaned from a possible 18…has brought them back towards the chasing pack and McColl’s troops now find themselves embroiled in an intriguing three-way contest with rivals St Roch's and Larkhall Thistle for the two promotion places up for grabs.

The second-placed Candy Rock’s continuing involvement in the New Coin Holdings West of Scotland Cup (they host the visit of Annbank United tomorrow afternoon) is providing a dream opportunity for Cambuslang to open up a yawning six-point gap and team boss McColl is urging his players to grab it with both hands.

He insisted: “Breaks going against us, heavier pitches and an overall loss of form have combined to eat into our points lead in no little way but I believe the guys have turned the corner after chalking up back-to-back wins over Vale of Clyde and Wishaw.

“The capture of John Gemmell has undoubtedly made a significant difference in this respect because the big man has bagged three goals in those games and it’s pleasing to know he is only going to get better as his match fitness levels improve.

“People look at the sheer presence John gives us and think we will resort to lumping the ball upfield to him but he has great feet and close control skills that bely his size as well as an eye for goal that hopefully will prove crucial in our remaining games.

“We will look to him more than ever against Lesmahagow because of a red card for Craig Hastings last weekend that has landed him with a one-match ban at a time when he was playing exceptionally well.”

Cambuslang, with just one more home game after their Lesmahagow tester, against Forth Wanderers, have three First Division contests on the road at Thorniewood United, Rossvale and Neilston making up a stiff but winnable run-in programme of games even though the experienced McColl is steadfastly refusing to count his chickens.

He said: “There are no easy games in this league particularly with St Roch's and Larkhall breathing down our necks and piling pressure on us to keep winning to stave off their challenges.

“It says everything that Renfrew went up as champions last season with 56 points yet the likelihood is that total will probably not be enough to claim second spot when you consider how things might pan out between now and the end of May.

“Going right to the wire of the last few games is a definite possibility and what’s pleasing from our perspective is the timely return to action of injured pair Ryan McBeth and Jamie Hay on top of Chris Gebbie’s suspension being over.

“And our dressing room has received a massive lift from Jamie McLeod (Messi) returning from a three-month stint working away from home which has severely restricted his appearances.”

The Wee Gers gaffer went on to wax lyrically about latest signing Jordan Morton from Cumnock.

He added: “Jordan is a lad with a great pedigree from playing first team with Hearts and Cowdenbeath and he came to our attention when the Cumnock manager John McKeown asked if we could give his player training facilities on a Thursday night as Jordan’s work commitments had him struggling to get down to Ayrshire.

“His class and qualities were obvious during our sessions and he was comfortable mixing with the other guys here so I decided to make a signing approach after noticing he wasn’t a regular starter in John’s team and a deal was thrashed out between the clubs.

“He provides a decent balance coming down the left side in tandem with Messi on the right flank while in-between we hope to see Gemmell, Liam Gormley, Thomas Kilmartin and Dale Simione thriving on the service coming in from the wide areas.

“When going for a title win, you need to have decent attacking options and I feel we have it at Cambuslang Rangers in spades.”

An even tougher run-in awaits the Dunky Sinclair steered Larkie in facing (home) St Roch's, Thorniewood Utd, Forth Wanderers as well as (away) Wishaw, Bellshill Athletic, Lesmahagow, Vale of Clyde, Neilston and fourth top of the table Rossvale who are the Lanarkshire outfit’s first up opponents tomorrow.

St Roch's, still going strong in two cup competitions will need to put points gathering on the back burner until next weekend when they entertain Wishaw at the start of a run-in fixture list comprising (home) Greenock, Neilston and (away) Larkhall Thistle, Johnstone Burgh, Lesmahagow and Wishaw.


(Kick-offs 2pm)

New Coin Holdings West of Scotland Cup third round: Craigmark v Kilsyth Rangers, Cumnock v Blantyre Vics, Largs Thistle v Kirkintilloch Rob Roy, Pollok v Neilston, St Roch's v Annbank Utd, Troon v Gartcairn, Thorniewood Utd v Darvel. Super Premier Division: Beith v Glenafton, Kilwinning Rangers v Hurlford Utd. Super First Division: Rutherglen Glencairn v Girvan, Yoker Athletic v Irvine Meadow, Irvine Vics v Shotts Bon Accord, Cumbernauld Utd v Petershill. Central First Division: Johnstone Burgh v Forth Wanderers, Cambuslang Rangers v Lesmahagow, Greenock v Bellshill Athletic, Rossvale v Larkhall Thistle, Wishaw v Benburb. Central Second Division: Carluke Rovers v Newmains Utd, Dunipace v Ashfield, East Kilbride Thistle v Port Glasgow, Royal Albert v St Anthony's. Ayrshire District League: Ardrossan Winton Rovers v Muirkirk, Kello Rovers v Ardeer Thistle.

Central League Cup first round: Shettleston v Renfrew.