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Semi-final numbers game one for others to play

PLAYING at Ibrox in front of a Rangers support that heavily outnumbers your own is nothing new for Andrew Robertson.

Andrew Robertson says he enjoyed playing at Ibrox with Queen's Park despite their fans being very much in the minority. Picture: Sammy Turner/SNS
Andrew Robertson says he enjoyed playing at Ibrox with Queen's Park despite their fans being very much in the minority. Picture: Sammy Turner/SNS

The Dundee United left-back did just that twice with Queen's Park last season - as well as twice at Hampden - so is undaunted about the fact the Tannadice side's William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers on April 12 is scheduled for the Govan stadium.

A fearful row has arisen between United and the Scottish Football Association in recent days about both the SFA's choice of a non-neutral venue for the tie, and the initial offering to United of just 11,063 tickets. But Robertson, speaking at the launch of the Vauxhall School Futsal Finals in Perth, said the allocation altercation is not something that is uppermost in the players' minds.

"The ticket allocation is nothing to do with the players. That's for people higher up to deal with," said the Glaswegian from Giffnock who was attached to Celtic's youth team as a teenager. "We just hope United fans turn out in numbers, whatever number that is. It's always nice to walk out and see a lot of your own supporters in the stadium because that does give you a lift. But once the game gets going you block out the fans and get on with what you're doing. You can't let what's happening in the stand affect your game.

"We always knew the semi-finals would be at Ibrox and the final at Parkhead so we knew if Rangers got to the semi-finals they'd be at home and that's what's happened. I really enjoyed playing at Ibrox last season. The first time we went there was daunting. Queen's Park were top of the league at that time and there was a big crowd.

"It was a new experience for most of us but once the game started we settled down and enjoyed it. Our fans were clearly outnumbered but they still made some noise and we could hear them. With United, we'll have more and I think our fans will turn out in numbers. "

On the game itself, the 20-year-old added: "I can't say for definite but I highly doubt we'll freeze. We're confident in own ability and the big park suits our kind of game. It will be an intense match but if we can get the ball down and play like we have been doing then hopefully we'll be in the final."

Queen's Park's lost all four of their meetings with Rangers last season, even if the game was into the 90th minute by the time Lee McCulloch's goal clinched Rangers' 2-0 win in October 2012 and into the fourth added minute by the time Fraser Aird broke the stubborn resistance offered by the Amateurs' 10-man team at the National Stadium the following December.

But Robertson personally won out of those matches. Although he had already caught the eye of Jackie McNamara, the United manager, during his time in charge at Partick Thistle, the attention Robertson received following his matches against Ally McCoist's side helped take him to Tannadice.

The defender said: "[Playing against Rangers] helped massively because there wouldn't have been much publicity in the third division if Rangers hadn't been in it."

The shadow boxing between the managers as to who are favourites to win the semi-final has already begun, even though victory for United would mean they had knocked Rangers out of the competition for the fourth year in five.

The gap between the teams was certainly vast during United's 3-0 win at Tannadice. "I remember watching that," said Robertson, who is likely to be involved in an intriguing duel with his rival for the Scotland left-back slot, Lee Wallace.

"But this game will be totally different. The squads are different. For example Jon Daly has moved from United to Rangers and Nicky Law is there now and is a great player. I expect both camps to be claiming the other team are favourites. It's mind games. Everyone will be watching Rangers to see how far they've come. But they have not faced a Premiership team in the cup this season and this will be our biggest game of the season. We're trying to win the cup. There are four teams left in it and any of us can win it."

The final could yet involve a reflowering of the New Firm rivalry of 30 years ago between United and Aberdeen. Robertson was delighted to see his Scotland under-21 team-mates Ryan Jack and Clark Robertson lift the League Cup with the Pittodrie side last weekend but hopes to savour the same sort of celebrations in May.

"I am pals with a lot of the guys who play at Aberdeen," he said. "I am obviously delighted for them, it was a big day for their club and their fans. But we are hoping that can be us in the Scottish Cup final."

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