Billy King returns to boost Rangers with Championship title in sight

Rangers' Billy King (right) celebrates scoring
Rangers' Billy King (right) celebrates scoring

‘The Journey’ is almost over - and this weekend could see Rangers clinch the Championship title and return to their rightful place in the top division of Scottish Football.

To secure such a success with five games remaining the Ibrox men will have to defeat Raith Rovers at Starks Park, whilst Hibernian fail to do likewise against St. Mirren in Paisley.

Mark Warburton will welcome back both Barrie McKay and Billy King who were absent from last week’s home defeat of Queen of the South due to being on International duty.

With three goals conceded in each of the last two outings against Falkirk and Queens concerns have been voiced over the defensive frailties that have been all too apparent for much of the season. Options to make significant changes at the back are however limited for the Ibrox Management - in the short term at any rate.

Rovers will be no pushover even if Rangers have enjoyed a 100 per cent record against the Fife club in seven previous League meetings over the past two campaigns.

That statistic certainly sounds impressive - even if one can never forget Raith’s Scottish Cup win at Ibrox in February 2015.

The Kirkcaldy side have been in impressive form of late with sixteen points accumulated from their last six League outings, a run that included a home victory over Hibernian.

Indeed Ray McKinnon’s men are unbeaten since a 0-2 defeat at Ibrox on 1st March - and have not suffered a defeat on their own turf since Andy Halliday scored the only goal of the game exactly two months ago.

Raith are the only side in the division not to have found the net against Rangers this season - and despite recent good form do not have their troubles to seek for this game with leading goalscorer Mark Stewart absent due to an ankle injury suffered in training and on-loan Ranger Ryan Hardie ineligible to feature against his parent club.

Hardie has been in impressive form since moving to Fife six weeks ago, scoring his first-ever senior hat-trick against St. Mirren and being called up to the Scotland Under-19’s squad for the UEFA Championships last week in Croatia.

French striker Joel Thomas will almost certainly make his first start for the Rovers.

Currently lying fourth in the Championship with 51 points from 31 games the Starks Park men have pretty much made certain of a Promotion Play-Off spot - but are certainly not out of the running for the preferred third place, trailing Hibernian by just four points, albeit having played three more games.

With the travelling ‘Gers support having been allocated an extra stand the visitors will have massive support in a near-capacity crowd, and with those fans surely having one eye on events at Paisley a tense, vibrant atmosphere is assured at an exposed ground where weather conditions are almost inevitably a factor.

It has been all of 46 years since Rangers last suffered defeat in a League fixture against Raith Rovers - which means that the home side have plenty of reasons to make history and secure a win that would mean just as much to them as securing all three points would mean to the visitors.