Andy Little’s scoring run may have come to an end in Dumfries on Tuesday night – but the Northern Ireland striker was in buoyant mood following Rangers’ 3-0 win over Queen of the South.
It was a gutsy display from Ally McCoist’s side who progressed to the semi-finals of the Ramsdens Challenge Cup.
The Light Blues will meet Stenhousemuir for a place in the final, and Little is hoping they can get back on the trophy campaign.
“I think we’re a little bit disappointed with how we played in the first half – but it shows how far we’ve come from last season,when we lost to Queen’s in the same competition,” he said.
“Tuesday was the kind of game we would certainly have struggled with a lot more last season and it’s a sign of how much we’ve kicked on.
“It’s maybe a sign of our fitness levels as well because we didn’t hunt and chase in packs as we’d have liked to but we pushed on in the second half.
“We’re capable of chasing teams and harrying them for whole games now. Even if we don’t have a lot of the ball, we’ve still got the legs to get round the pitch and there are very few teams so far this season that have caused us many problems in open play.”
There is little doubt that Rangers’ performances thus far in the current campaign have been light years removed from those for much of last season – perhaps underlining the importance of a proper pre-season training programme as Andy acknowledged.
“We didn’t really have a pre-season last year. We had a whole squad that hadn’t gone through all the work they needed to and new players came in at the last minute as well, myself included,” he added.
“It was very difficult. We don’t have that excuse this season and our fitness levels are much higher because of the preparations we’ve done.”
The win at Palmerston Park meant progress to the Challenge Cup semi-finals forRangers – where in yesterday’s draw at Hampden the Light Blues were paired with Stenhousemuir, the tie to be played at Ochilview.
For youngster Robbie Crawford there was recognition that this tie, on an artificial surface Rangers found difficulty in coping with last year despite scoring ten goals in two games, will be no formality.
“It was always going to be difficult whoever we were drawn against because they’ll be up for it. Every team looks forward to playing Rangers.
“They’ll all be in our faces and we need to take each game as it comes rather than get complacent. This is a semifinal and we need to show Stenhousemuir respect in it because they’ve done well to get this far.
“We know what to expect from going to these places. We’ve a lot of experience of that now so we’ll just focus on the game and try to do well. I scored at Ochilview last season against East Stirlingshire.”
Crawford dismissed the suggestion that the Challenge Cup is less important to Rangers or the Ibrox players than any other competition.
“This is why we train and work hard every day. We’re all at Rangers to win trophies and to do it for a club like this would be something really special.
“It’s encouraging that the Manager has kept faith with the young boys who did so well last season.”