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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Gers' Smith hints at return for injury-hit Thomson

Kevin Thomson could be set to start his first competitive game in more than nine months on Sunday after Rangers boss Walter Smith hinted he would play the midfielder at Hearts.

Thomson, 24, featured for the final 13 minutes of Saturday's opening Clydesdale Bank Premier League game of the season against Falkirk.

That marked his first-team comeback from a cruciate knee ligament injury suffered at Kilmarnock last November when he collided with David Fernandez.

Thomson featured prominently for the Light Blues during pre-season, playing some part in all but one game.

And while Smith believes he is not yet capable of completing a full 90 minutes, he is sure Thomson is ready to start at Tynecastle this weekend.

''It'll take Kevin a period of time to get back to full match fitness and even then, it'll take a few games to get going,'' Smith told his club's website. ''He is fortunate in the sense he has had the same injury before so he knows exactly what to expect in his bid to get back to fitness.

''Kevin plays in a deeper position in midfield so he can handle things a little bit better because you don't need the same sharpness that forwards require at their peak.

''He has been doing well enough in the games he has featured in so far, both during pre-season and on Saturday.

''We now have to move on to a situation where Kevin starts matches then comes off after a while rather than begins on the bench and comes on as a substitute.

''He is just about ready for that situation now and we are happy with the progress he is making.''

Thomson will take heart from the way Steven Naismith has bounced back from his own injury woes to relaunch his Ibrox career.

Striker Naismith scored his first Rangers goal for almost 18 months on Saturday, having spent almost nine of those months recovering from a cruciate ligament injury.

Naismith was happy to contribute to what was a ruthless 4-1 thrashing of Falkirk.

He said: ''I think we're benefiting from another year together and we're growing in confidence as a group.

''Winning the league last season certainly helped in that respect and the manager has emphasised to us that he wants us to kill off teams better this term.

''In the past, we've created lots of chances but haven't always closed games out and it's our objective to change that.

''At the weekend, I'd like to think we showed we're getting towards where we want to be in that respect.

''Falkirk were probably the better team at the start of the second half but once we got the third goal, we made sure we would get all three points by applying more pressure.

Naismith, meanwhile, praised fellow forward Kenny Miller for the brace he scored against the Bairns.

The Scotland striker has been challenged by boss Smith to become one of the leading scorers in the league and Naismith thinks Miller's weekend performance bodes well for the future.

He said: ''It won't do Kenny any harm at all. Throughout the 90 minutes he was busy and was always looking to attack.

''He deserves a lot of credit for the two goals he scored. The second one showed what experience he has and it was a tremendous finish.''


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