Stretched Rangers face Forres Mechanics

Posted by John Gow

After the joy of beating Motherwell (and by extension the SPL), it's now onto the biggest game of the season against Forres Mechanics of the Highland League.

Okay, that's partially a joke, but in another sense it isn't. Can you imagine the uproar if Rangers went out of the Scottish Cup to a non-league side? Maybe, that's overly pessimistic, but this Rangers team has the capability to surprise.

No way would I have thought after two dire league performances away from home, that Rangers would give a third to Annan Athletic. Then against the 'Well on Wednesday, I genuinely didn't think that the Light Blues had it in them to beat the Scottish league leaders. Yet they more than deserved to win.

So, anything can happen this season, but it will hardly be a revelation of tipping genius to predict the Rangers will beat the Moray outfit.

Winning against Motherwell must have given everyone at Ibrox a huge injection of confidence, and if they play anywhere near the level of intensity that they did on Wednesday, they will win quite comfortably.

Unfortunately, Rangers will be without Fran Sandaza, who will be out for at least three months with a broken cheekbone. The Spaniard was already coming back from injury, and when he played he hasn't really impressed, so it's a huge disappointment for everyone that he won't get his chance to show what he can do until 2013.

More importantly though is his health. As Ally McCoist pointed out that: "It's a horrendous facial injury and it's as bad as I've ever seen on a football park. It's a bit of a mess. The most important thing is Fran's health and that he gets himself back to a position where he can play and train."

On the less serious injury front, David Templeton and Andy Little are still out, while Dean Shiels and Ian Black are doubtful. It has shone a light on the smaller than prudent squad that Rangers started the season. Unlike my predictions on the last few football matches, this is one I did see correctly, and there was no good reason why Charles Green should not have splashed out on a few more 'solid' squad players.

As McCoist has said: "This is one of our worst scenarios, to have five players who are first-team starters struggling. We knew this sort of thing would be a possibility and with the transfer embargo coming up, it was important to try to strengthen and get bodies in. Unfortunately we never managed to do that but we're going to have to get on with it. The flip side is that the younger boys who have been coming in have been wonderful."

The Rangers manager is spot-on. The squad is unnecessarily stretched, but there is also no doubt that the youngsters like Lewis Macleod, Barrie Mackay, Fraser Aird, Robbie Crawford and Kyle Hutton are all able replacements for those injured.

Aird and Mackay - both only 17 - are among Rangers best players coming forward and Hutton was superb in midfield against Motherwell. There are rumours that the reason he was out the team in the first place was because of a 'fall-out' with the manager, and if true, let's hope that any issues have been resolved because he is a good footballer.

This is a chance for all the youngsters to show the manager what they can do, and regardless of the injuries, Rangers will have too much ability for Forres and there is only one outcome.

Prediction: Forres Mechanics 1-5 Rangers

ESPN Conversations