Last Christmas Rangers suffered their heaviest defeat of the season at Easter Road when they crashed to a catastrophic 4-0 defeat at the hands of Hibernian.
The Ibrox men at the time were under the stewardship of Kenny McDowall for the first time after Ally McCoist’s resignation followed by his placement on gardening leave just five days before that visit to Edinburgh.
Since then Rangers returned to Leith in March to defy all expectations with a 2-0 win courtesy of goals from Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller – a victory that marked Stuart McCall’s first as Ibrox boss.
Rangers may travel to the capital city with a 2-0 lead following Wednesday’s First Leg at Ibrox – but no-one at the club will be under any illusion that this tie is done and dusted.
Dean Shiels was a doubt in midweek due to illness but recovered in time to play. As that game was just three days ago it remains to be seen whether the Northern Ireland international will be 100 per cent ready. Likewise Kenny Miller – who has scored in his last two outings against his former club – ran himself into the ground at Ibrox and may not play from the start.
The Rangers manager issued a call to arms as far as his squad’s availability was concerned.
“We have no fresh injury concerns following Wednesday,” McCall said.
“We will look at our personnel and see how they are – not just physically but also mentally. You have the whole of June to rest when you go into a game at this time of year. You have the whole summer to be tired – this is not a time for tired minds or bodies.”
Regardless McCall may well opt for a more cautious formation, perhaps similar to that he utilised to such telling effect at the same venue in March. With that in mind there may well be a recall for Steven Smith in midfield.
Another Northern Ireland international Shane Ferguson was an unused substitute at Ibrox – the closest he has come to a competitive 1st team outing since joining on loan from Newcastle United in January, and will surely feature on the bench again at Easter Road as indeed may fellow loan signing Remi Streete.
The central defender has played just 45 minutes as a Ranger, making his debut in the home Scottish Cup defeat at the hands of Raith Rovers before injury struck. Named as a substitute in Dumfries two weeks ago, he has every chance of being on the bench again given the paucity of central defensive options available to McCall.