IAN Black last night launched a impassioned defence of Rangers in the wake of their 1-1 draw with part-time minnows Albion Rovers.
The Rangers players were booed off the field by their own supporters at Ibrox on Sunday after failing to beat Rovers in their William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final.
Ally McCoist's men only managed to secure a replay when makeshift striker Bilel Mohsni headed home a highly controversial equaliser in the 77th minute, and the performance and result against the tiny Cliftonhill club have, unsurprisingly, drawn a furious response from supporters.
However Black denied that his side, who will replay the last-eight tie at New Douglas Park on Monday night, should be embarrassed by their display, predicting that those same critics will be cheering if Rangers can finally secure the SPFL League 1 title with a win over Airdrieonians at Ibrox tomorrow evening.
"Do the players feel embarrassed?" he said. "No. You've got to look at the possession stats and the number of shots they had at our goal. I think we restricted them to maybe one or two shots at goal. They got an opportunity and they scored it.
"You've got to give them credit. They came with a game plan to make it hard for us to break them down and it paid off for them. But we're happy we are still in it. We've got to go there now and obviously try to get a win.
"Everyone goes through a bad patch. Sunday seemed to be one of those for us. Nothing seemed to be going our way then we got a break. We can handle it. We've proved a lot of people wrong and have still got the cup to look forward to and we'll be looking to get the win there."
Black added: "We are there to win the league and it doesn't matter how we win it. People aren't going to talk about performances in the past when we win the league. They will moan on a Saturday because the game isn't entertaining, but they will forget about it in two days time.
"They will talk about the next game coming up and they will talk about how Rangers have won the league. We have got an opportunity to go and win it on Wednesday night and I can guarantee that after Wednesday night there will not be a complaint about any performance."
Black has also dismissed criticism of the Rangers manager and his tactics both against Rovers at the weekend and this season in general.
Despite Rangers going undefeated in League 1 and still being involved in the Ramsdens Cup and the Scottish Cup, there has been widespread disaffection about the style of play favoured by McCoist. But the former Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hearts player feels there is only so much a coach can do when opposing teams set out to defend against them.
"The manager has been given a team and a job to get us back to the SPFL Premiership," Black said. "We won the league last year with kids. We have brought in experience this year and haven't been beaten. What else do people want? We are still in the Scottish Cup and have a good chance. What more can you ask for?
"The boys are working hard and we want to win the league for the fans and for ourselves and to get the club back up to where we should be. Everything is going well and we are doing that. Credit to the manager and the staff for keeping us going. We haven't been beaten so I don't know what else people can ask for."
Black added: "Look at the Rovers game. Every time we got the ball in the last third they had every man in the box area. You tell me a game plan to try and play through 11 bodies and hit the target. It's like putting a wall up in front of the goals and trying to break it down.
"Sometimes you've got to look at the bigger picture, get the ball wide and try and beat them with an aerial threat. It didn't pay off for us on Sunday, but their game plan was to shut up shop and restrict us when we tried to play it through them. There were times when we lacked the urgency to get the ball through, but we worked hard and I think we deserved the win overall."
Black also claimed that Rangers' own supporters are making it harder for the Ibrox club to win games. "There are still a lot of kids in the squad who sometimes can't handle the crowd when they get on your back," he said. "They've got to blank it out and try to concentrate on their own game and not let it affect them."
Black is also adamant that Ally McCoist's side can win the replay with James Ward's team away from home and then land the Scottish Cup. If they overcome their Coatbridge rivals they will play Premiership club Dundee United in the semi-final at Ibrox next month.
Black said: "It is a cup game, it is a one off. If we beat Rovers in the replay I am more than confident we can take anybody on our day. Everybody has a bad day. People talk about us, but Celtic have had bad days. They played Morton in the cup and lost and everybody slaughtered them for two days in the papers.
"We are getting it now. People are slaughtering us for not beating them [Rovers]. But you have to give them credit and respect as well. We are happy with the way we are going."
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