IT should get interesting again for Rangers next season.

The past two league campaigns have been about as demanding as a four-piece jigsaw with three of the bits already in place, as fast-paced as an Italian moonlit passeggiata after several bottles of red wine.

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Ally McCoist and his players have made all the right noises about the third division and League 1 titles being far from a formality, but the league tables tell a different story. Rangers won last year by 24 points and are guarding a 34-point advantage this term with four matches still to play.

Next season, though, might prove more of a challenge. The news from Lithuania that Hearts should be able to conclude a CVA [company voluntary arrangement] and avoid liquidation will see them line up in the SPFL Championship as the greatest threat to Rangers' dominance.

A second Premiership faller could yet join them via the new relegation play-off mechanism, while Dunfermline Athletic could also be involved should they make the step up from League 1. Throw in those who don't make it out of the Championship this year - possibly Hamilton Academical, Falkirk and recent Ramsdens Cup nemesis Raith Rovers - and it is difficult to see Rangers regularly racking up the sort of high-scoring thrashings they have doled out to part-time opposition over the past couple of years.

How Rangers line up, of course, will depend on the size of budget made available to McCoist, with speculation mounting that Kris Boyd is on the brink of a summer return. For those already at the club came an acknowledgement that there was no guarantee that next season would conclude with the Ibrox side as champions again,

"It will be an exciting league," said Nicky Law, one of three Rangers players nominated for the Cheque Centre/PFA Scotland League 1 Player of the Year award. "We've played Championship sides this season [Falkirk, Queen of the South and Raith] and you notice the difference in the standard [from League 1].

"We've won the last two league campaigns fairly comfortably and a lot of people probably think it will be the same again. But we're under no illusions as to how close it will be because the sides we've faced this season have been good.

"I haven't seen a massive difference from the teams I played against with Motherwell last season [in the top flight]. Falkirk had some really good young players and we scored two late on in a game that could have gone either way. Raith Rovers beat us and they were organised and fit. We'll need to improve considerably.

"Hearts will be in it and you'd fancy them to challenge, and if any of the other five in the Premiership dropped down then they would make it even more competitive."

Rangers remain undefeated in League 1 this season but have slowed down in the second half of the campaign, often grinding out results. Law admitted that a lack of urgency had crept in when it became apparent that there would be no sustained challenge to their superiority.

"As a team we started well, I was scoring a lot of goals and everyone seemed to be right up there firing on all cylinders," added the midfielder. "I think it was like that up until we drew with Stranraer on Boxing Day and it was like 'we've drawn, we can't win every league game'. It was just flat and since that game we've been flat.

"It's hard for one or two players to stand out when the whole team has dipped. We're fortunate enough that we've got players who have dug us out of a hole when we've needed it.

"I think when you're 20, 30 points clear and you know you've wrapped up the league it's hard to go out every single week and do the business. When you're desperate for the three points it's a different story. You do drop off and at the start of the season we knew we needed the points."

McCoist, though, has tried to keep the tempo up. "The manager has had to get us going at times," said Law. "A big part of his job has been keeping us motivated and he won't let us slack. Even before the Forfar game on Tuesday he said if we dropped an inch we would be coming off. You can't let your standards drop at Rangers because there is no room for that."