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McCulloch: maybe we were a wee bit lazy

Rangers' final game of 2013 is an opportunity to cast off some regrets.

Lee McCulloch and his team-mates need to do 'a lot, lot better'
Lee McCulloch and his team-mates need to do 'a lot, lot better'

They are small, compared to some of the tumultuous events that have beset the club in recent years, but none the less troubling for the players. Dropping two points against Stranraer last Thursday prompted booing from the home support and also a bout of introspection amongst the players.

The performance at Ibrox was bereft, to such an extent that manager Ally McCoist admitted Stranraer were worthy of their point. The result ended Rangers' 100% league record - which had stretched to 15 games - and their run of 20 consecutive wins in all competitions. That in itself did not anger McCoist, but the means by which his team failed to capitalise on taking the lead through a first-half penalty and then conceded a late equaliser after losing possession during an attacking corner kick, certainly irked him, and his players.

"It had been 19 days since our last game," said Lee McCulloch, the Rangers centre-back. "Then again, we should really have been [on top of our] game. We were a bit rusty. Maybe mentality-wise we were a wee bit lazy. In the Christmas period, you look for every excuse under the sun, but the boys should be doing a lot, lot better, myself included. When you play at this club, you need to bounce back, so we'll be looking forward to Monday night."

The visit to East End Park offers the chance of atonement, but it will be a demanding game. Dunfermline Athletic lost 3-1 when they travelled to Glasgow in November, but were spirited, physical and aggressive, qualities that will be to the fore again this evening. "That's the way their manager has always set his teams up, when he was at Hearts and other teams . . . physical but fair," McCulloch said. "They have some good players, so it is going to be tough. Potentially it is Rangers' most difficult league game of the season. We've got to focus on that, and put things right."

McCulloch scored his 11th goal of the season last Thursday, when his penalty put Rangers in front at Ibrox. Despite now being established at centre-back, he continues to score regularly, and scored consecutive hat tricks against East Fife and Arbroath early in the season. He does not believe he will challenge Jon Daly for the status of leading goalscorer this season, even though the forward is only three goals in front with 14 so far this season. "I wouldn't say so," said McCulloch. "It was good to get another goal [against Stranraer], but three points would have been better."

The frustrations of the Stranraer game linger, but that ought to focus the minds of the Rangers players. Jefferies, meanwhile, hopes that there will be no hangover from accusations that his side tried to kick Rangers off the park last month. "I was glad my team competed, because we said to them 'don't be bullied'," said Jefferies.

"Rangers are a big, strong side and it would be easy for them to use their power and strength. Don't get me wrong, Rangers tried to play, but to accuse Dunfermline of being a rough house, I found it quite comical. You are talking about [a side with] an average age of 20 and some of them looking like a pull-through for a rifle. If it came down to a physical battle between Rangers and us, there is only one team going to win.

"We concentrate on trying to play at a certain tempo. It maybe takes an adjustment here and there for certain players, but they can do that. They are all comfortable in certain positions. Rangers have not been beaten yet and that is an incentive for every team. We have the opportunity, but we will have to play to our best to do that."

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