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Stenhousemuir 0 Rangers 4: Humdrum affair does little to boost McCoist's target of a bigger budget

ALLY McCOIST will discover this week the extent of his transfer budget for next season.

Rangers manager Ally McCoist shakes hands with Stenhousemuir midfielder Sean Dickson at full time after the visitors to Ochilview Park secure a four-goal victory. Picture: SNS
Rangers manager Ally McCoist shakes hands with Stenhousemuir midfielder Sean Dickson at full time after the visitors to Ochilview Park secure a four-goal victory. Picture: SNS

Results and performances such as this will not help his cause if he has to plead for a bit more money than is on the table. Rangers have barely been troubled in League 1 this season and are now three matches away from going through the campaign unbeaten.

There will not be a mad rush to draw comparisons with Arsenal's 'invincibles' or the Juventus team of a few seasons ago which enjoyed similar undefeated title successes, but it will still rank as an impressive achievement, nevertheless. Rangers, with their expensively assembled squad, would have been expected to take care of mainly part-time opposition on a weekly basis home and away, but even hugely tipped favourites can slip up from time to time, as Chelsea discovered to their cost on Saturday evening.

This was Rangers' sixth league match since clinching the title last month, a period when players with little to motivate them and operating without any real intensity can often let their standards fall.

At Ochilview, against a Stenhousemuir side still chasing a play-off place, there was little sign that the Ibrox side were of a mind to take their foot off the gas as they scored two goals in either half to run out comfortable victors. Cup losses to Raith Rovers and Dundee United earlier in the month have led what could have been a stellar season being downgraded to merely adequate, but the prospect of their one season in the third tier ending without a loss on their record is clearly still sufficient inspiration.

"We are trying not to talk about it too much as we don't want to jinx it," said Dean Shiels, the Rangers forward. "It has been a phenomenal effort so far and with only three games to go it's hard not to think about it. Hopefully we can carry it on.

"It's tough [in the lower leagues] but it is also a good test of character that we have done so well, especially this season. Some of the conditions are difficult and it can be easy to slacken off that little bit. But if you do that then we know we will get punished. The staff and the captain have been on at us and as a unit we have been together and determined not to let that happen.

"It is easy at this stage of the season for teams who have already won the league like ourselves to switch off, but we were very professional and overall it was a very convincing victory."

Nicky Law's second-half goal, following strikes from Steven Smith, Shiels and a Lee McCulloch penalty, was Rangers' 100th in the league this season. Unsurprisingly, they are the highest scorers in senior British football.

"You can look at a lot of individual and collective records this season that the lads have broken and that is another one," added Shiels. "To score 100 goals is some achievement, no matter what league you are in and we will try to get a few more."

A fairly humdrum affair carried some extra significance for Ben Greenhalgh. Stenhousemuir's on-loan Inverness Caledonian Thistle striker, once of Internazionale, was a Rangers supporter as a boy and so enjoyed sharing a pitch with them, despite the scoreline. He admits to being uncertain as to whether he will return to the Highland club in the summer.

"There's still an opportunity for me to be signed for Inverness for next season, but it doesn't look likely since I haven't been playing since January," he said. "It doesn't look an option. It went well for me up there and I didn't put in a bad performance. But if John Hughes isn't having me in his team I'll have to look elsewhere."

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