ALLY McCOIST, the Rangers manager, admits he can understand why so many supporters stayed away from his side's 1-0 League Cup second-round win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on a day in which talks over an Ibrox boycott escalated and pressure mounted on director Sandy Easdale.

Just 15,208 people watched the League One champions earn a last-16 visit to Falkirk through a 79th-minute goal from Lewis Macleod with the Sons of Struth supporters' group unfurling protest banners beside the directors' box.

Sons of Struth last night opened a poll among their 1500-plus members over staying away from all home matches, which will run until tomorrow at midnight. Should they receive a positive response, they will seek backing from other supporters' groups.

Meanwhile, the Union of Fans issued another statement calling for the removal of Easdale from Rangers' football board after he was photographed last week with convicted fraudster, Rafat Rizvi, previously linked with the Charles Green-led takeover of the club.

McCoist believes his men thoroughly deserved their victory, a seventh consecutive win, despite visiting defender Gary Warren having a late goal disallowed and refused to be critical of those who refused to turn up to support their team in person.

"I can understand," said McCoist. "I want the stadium full. Of course I do. I am the manager of the team and the fuller the stadium, the better. However, I can understand what's going on. I'm doing my level best not to get involved in it. I can't have a bearing on it, but what I can have a bearing on is picking teams and getting results like we did tonight. I said before the game we are duty bound to train our energy and thoughts on things we can have a bearing on and we've sent the Ran­gers fans home with a smile.

"I have no doubt there were thousands and thousands sitting round radios and watching televisions with a smile on their faces too. hat's a very big part of our job.

"I'm delighted with the result. We deserved it as we were the team that looked most like scoring. We got a break with the goal, yes, but it was a result we deserved."

McCoist reserved particular praise for Macleod in the wake of his fifth goal of the campaign. "We asked him to contribute more goals and assists and have that little bit more of a killer instinct," said McCoist. "He's certainly given us that. He showed great maturity and a great level of intelligence to stay switched on at the goal. The fans are rightly taking him to their hearts."

Many of those followers remain on the warpath over Sandy Easdale, though. Rangers claimed last week that Rizvi, on Interpol's wanted list over his alleged role in the collapse of an Indonesian bank, had no connection with them and had only arrived at Ibrox as part of a delegation of Malaysian businessmen.

That same statement insisted he was working as an advisor for Datuk Faizoull Bin Ahmad, chairman of Felda United FC, but Bin Ahmad's outright denial of that claim has sparked an angry response.

"The Union of Fans has already called for the Rangers PLC board to remove Sandy Easdale due to his involvement with convicted fraudster, Rafat Rizvi," said spokesman Chris Graham. "Instead of acting with the necessary propriety, the board issued a statement denying prior knowledge of any involvement from Rizvi.

"Now, Mr Bin Ahmad of the Malaysian delegation, which the board claimed Rizvi was part of, has also denied all knowledge of him. This further fuels the feeling that the PLC directors are not, in fact, directing the affairs of the company.

"There are two possibilities if Mr Bin Ahmad is being truthful. The first is that the board was fully aware of Rizvi's meeting with Sandy Easdale and is complicit in involving Rizvi in the affairs of the club. The second is that Sandy Easdale misled the board over the reason for Rizvi's involvement. Either way, we repeat our call for the PLC board to disassociate itself from Rizvi by removing Sandy Easdale immediately from his position as a club director. If the board refuse to remove Mr Easdale, fans and shareholders will be within their rights to assume that they condone the involvement of Mr Rizvi. The board may be able to do little about the block of anonymous shareholders who Mr Easdale represents. However, they can stop Mr Easdale from controlling the affairs of the club, on behalf of those shareholders, through his directorship. If the board and Mr Easdale think this issue is going to go away, they are sadly mistaken."