Kenny McDowall prepares for first game in charge of Rangers

Outgoing Rangers manager Ally McCoist (left), with Kenny McDowall (centre) and Ian Durrant
Outgoing Rangers manager Ally McCoist (left), with Kenny McDowall (centre) and Ian Durrant

Acting manager Kenny McDowall will take charge of his first game in charge at Easter Road on Saturday afternoon and it could scarcely be any more crucial a fixture for the Light Blues as they face the stern challenge of Alan Stubbs’ Hibernian.

Rangers have already faced the Edinburgh side twice this season – on both occasions at Ibrox – and there could scarcely have been a greater contrast between the two clashes.

In August a Challenge Cup meeting was decided 2-1 in favour of the home side after extra-time whilst Hibs were comfortable 3-1 winners on League business at the end of September.

That defeat was a real eye-opener for the Light Blue legions and indeed all connected with the club – for arguably the first time many questioned Ally McCoist’s ability to win the Championship title at the first time of asking and return Rangers to their rightful place in the top division.

Ally has now departed – and Kenny McDowall is unlikely to make many changes in his starting line-up for his inaugural game in charge.

Hibernian have been plagued by inconsistency as far as their Championship campaign is concerned – amongst the highlights have been that Ibrox win and the home Edinburgh Derby some two months ago when, having outplayed their great rivals for most of the game they were denied a noteworthy victory when Alim Ozturk’s stunning injury-time equaliser from fully 30 yards preserved Hearts’ unbeaten record.

Alan Stubbs’ side currently lie third in the table with 28 points from seventeen games, seven points adrift of second-placed Rangers.

They impressed last weekend when coming from behind to defeat Raith Rovers 3-1 at Stark’s Park.

Victory for Hibs will be just as important as it would be for their opponents as it would reduce that gap to just four points.

However for an Ibrox side who have lost their last three away games all three points is equally critical in Kenny McDowall’s debut match.

McDowall’s presence is not the only change as far as the dugout is concerned – Gordon Durie will be there in place of Ian Durrant, the two former Ibrox players having swapped responsibilities with Durrant now in charge of the Under-20’s.

‘Jukebox’ had no illusions about the task in hand at his old stamping ground.

“We’re looking forward to it and we know that it’s going to be a very tough game. We were disappointed with the result in the last game at Ibrox and the boys have an opportunity to put that right on this occasion,” he said.

“I’ve been involved in the game for a long time and it’s games like this that you want to be involved in. We are aware that we trail twelve points behind Hearts. We need to focus game by game.”

There is little doubt that Durie has been promoted at a difficult and turbulent time for the club with the backlash following Monday’s AGM still resounding and more obstacles to progress decreed by the SFA with their ban on further investment from Mike Ashley.

“There may have been turmoil at the club - but it’s down to us to get that focus away from the players and make sure that they produce for us and for the supporters at Easter Road,” he said.

“We are all Rangers people and our job is to get results on the pitch and that starts this weekend. Our focus is on preparing the players and making sure that they are bang up for it against Hibernian.”

Cammy Bell and Lewis MacLeod remain unavailable through injury but new player-coach Lee McCulloch will almost certainly retain his place as both Captain and in the centre of defence.