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By ESPN Staff

Smith happy with performance

Rangers manager Walter Smith was pleased with the way his side dealt with a difficult pitch at St Johnstone to go back on top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win.

Smith pleased with 'concentration'

Goals in either half from Kyle Lafferty and Steven Naismith were enough to put the Gers back on the summit for the first time since Boxing Day, having played one more game than rivals Celtic.

Smith told ESPN: "We showed a good edge in defence tonight and we had to, that pitch makes it awkward for both sides. St Johnstone try and play a good level of football too and it affects them as well.

"In terms of creating opportunities there wasn't a great deal for either team in the first half and we had to bide our time because St Johnstone don't lose many goals.''

Naismith added: "It's coming down to points before performances. Tonight was one of those days on a tough pitch to play on but we got goals at the right time.''

Asked about the takeover rumours circulating around the club, Smith could offer little insight.

"We've been away all day preparing for the game,'' he said. "You probably know as much as me.''

Asked what it means to be back at the top of the SPL, Smith said: "What it means is we have come back after the disappointment of losing at the weekend. At this stage, if you do have a setback, you have to get back on track as soon as possible.

"That's something we have managed to do this season, come back after we have lost games. Obviously we don't want to lose any more so hopefully the result on Saturday can spur us on a little and we can start to show a level of consistency.

"It was a good result for us tonight because it's always an awkward place to come to and win. St Johnstone don't lose a lot of goals and you need to work hard for what you do get here. I felt we did that, we worked very hard and defended well, and overall we are very pleased to win.''

Smith was also pleased with the way his players overcame a difficult surface, adding: "The conditions are difficult, the pitch is difficult but it's difficult for both teams. St Johnstone try to get the ball down and play so it affects them as much as any of the other teams.

"You just have to try and handle it and I thought we showed a good level of concentration in terms of handling it over the 90 minutes.''

The match was played at 6pm to fulfil outstanding fixtures before the split and Smith had sympathy for supporters who faced difficulty in travelling to Perth for the early evening start time.

He said: "The 6pm kick-offs are awkward for supporters. We still have a situation where there is a slight backlog of fixtures. In the second half of the season, if we are going to have bad weather, we have to do something to avoid situations like this.

"I don't think it's ideal that supporters have to leave their work early to come to games. But there is not a great deal else that can be done so if we want the games played we just need to play them at this time but I don't think anyone would consider it to be ideal.''

Reflecting on the loss, Saints boss Derek McInnes said: "There was a mistake for the first goal and that gave Rangers something to hold onto. From that moment, the game tipped towards Rangers. We had a lot to do and we didn't do enough, although we had some outstanding performances. We pick ourselves up and we move on.''

St Johnstone could have had a penalty when Danny Grainger went to ground under pressure from Gregg Wylde when the match was still deadlocked. McInnes revealed that Rangers assistant Ally McCoist also felt it was a spot-kick but the manager refused to use the decision as an excuse for the defeat.

McInnes said: "I thought we could have had a penalty. I've not seen it again but Coisty was convinced 100% that it was a penalty. For me, there was contact. But we have been there before in the last three or four games where we have had penalty shouts that we haven't got.

"But it would be wrong to say that was the real reason why we lost the game, although it could maybe have been a factor if we had been given it.''


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