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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

Rangers boss Smith looking forward to cup distraction

Rangers manager Walter Smith is hoping a break from league action will rejuvenate his players for the title run-in after watching them grind out a win at Kilmarnock.

•  Kilmarnock 0-2 Rangers: Whittaker on song

Goals from Steven Whittaker and Kenny Miller were enough to secure the victory which allowed the Scottish champions to restore their 13-point advantage at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

Rangers now face Dundee United in the Scottish Cup this weekend, before contesting St Mirren for the first silverware of the season when they meet in Co-operative Insurance Cup final.

And, despite their commanding position, Smith feels some respite from the SPL is coming at the right time after less than convincing wins against Saints and Killie in the wake of their dramatic Old Firm triumph and the international break.

"I was a little bit concerned overall," Smith said. "I didn't think we reached a great level on Saturday against St Mirren in comparison to the way we have been playing. In the first half in this game we didn't either.

"We've got two cup ties now which takes us out of the league campaign and that will give us an opportunity to freshen up and get ready to remaining league games after the League Cup final.''

Reflecting on the clash at Rugby Park, the Rangers boss added: "It was a satisfying result for us. It was a poor first half from ourselves and Kilmarnock were the better side.

"We were slow to start but it was a turnaround at the start of the second half. For the first 25 minutes of the second half we had by far the best of the game and that spell won it for us, getting the two goals. I'm pleased with the second half performance but it was a poor first half from our own point of view.''

Despite watching him spilling the ball on a couple of occasions, Smith was keen to defend goalkeeper Allan McGregor.

"He is doing all right for us,'' he said. "There was a couple of errors but everybody makes an error. I don't think we need to pick him out - there were far more errors from far more players than him, in the first half especially.''

Killie boss Jimmy Calderwood felt his players should have taken advantage of an impressive first half but admits facing a Rangers team who are capable of finding the back of the net from a number of positions - full-back Whittaker now has 11 for the season - is always going to be tough.

"That's the quality they've got,'' he said. "But we more than matched them in the first half. We seemed to lose a bit of confidence in the second half for some strange reason and that was the annoying thing.

"You could say that's just the quality of Rangers. We huffed and puffed but we just weren't anywhere near to the standard of the first half.''

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