TWO years ago the Rangers team thrown together in the aftermath of liquidation and football sanctions was no match for Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who swatted them out of the League Cup with some ease.
Now Lee McCulloch insists the Ibrox side will be far more worthy challengers when the two teams meet in this year's second round on September 16 for the right to face Falkirk in the third round a week later. Having said that, the Rangers captain would be more comfortable if Inverness lost their major goal threat, Billy McKay, before next Monday's transfer deadline.
He posed the question: "Is the wee striker away yet? No? There's maybe time, because he's a good player him!
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"Seriously, they've got a few good players, so it's going to be a tough game for us. They've had a couple of good results. They beat Celtic at the weekend so they have a few good players. I would say we're in a much better place than when we played them two years ago, definitely.
"The younger boys who played that night obviously have the experience of games - and we've added players who have improved us, made us better and given us a bigger squad."
Rangers earned their place in the second round with a rather laboured performance in Airdrie against Queen's Park on Tuesday although they were more comfortable winners tham the 2-1 scoreline reflects.
McCulloch knows they will need to play better against Inverness but he was bullish about the nature of the victory, secured by two Kris Boyd headers.
He said: "The game against Queen's Park was a bit scrappy but we got the job done. I thought the strikers did really well and, on another day, we could have had five or six. Their goalie made a great save from me early on and made a few others over the course of the game. I thought we dominated the game without really flattering."
At the age of 36, McCulloch continues to display his versatility having returned to a midfield role which gives him licence to get into the penalty area as well as control the play.
His foray into the box last Saturday to score against Dumbarton made him the first Rangers player to score in all four divisions as well as the three domestic cups and the Champions League. "That's great to have that," he said. "But it's not really about personal glory this season. It's about doing well in the cups and getting up the league, winning this league. That is first and foremost the target, winning this league, with anything we do in the cups is a bonus.
"'I love playing in midfield. It's different again but I enjoy playing in there alongside Nicky Law, getting a couple of goals and assists.
'The legs aren't a problem in there. It's just about keeping form. I'm one of the fittest in the team, so it's no problem to play in there."