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Nerves mount as Rangers edge closer to SPL title

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 8 May 2008

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Walter Smith has warned his Rangers players and the club's supporters to prepare themselves for some nervy moments as the Scottish Premier League reaches its climax.

The Ibrox side stayed on track to reclaim the SPL title with a 1-0 victory at home to Motherwell on Wednesday – moving them to within four points of leaders Celtic with two games in hand.

However, the only goal of the game did not arrive until the 74th minute, leading to a tense atmosphere among the Rangers supporters before Barry Ferguson's winner.

Smith, though, was not surprised by the nature of the match and expects similarly anxious moments in their final four SPL games.

He said: “That's the type of game we're going to get until the end of the season – they're all going to be tight.

“Every one of the top six has something to play for and that's having an effect on how close the games are.

“Motherwell frustrated us at times but at this stage of the season all that matters is winning so I was delighted that we managed to do so.”

Smith continued: “For the first time in two years the championship is still being fought out and for the first time that I can remember four teams are vying for a European spot.

“At this stage in the season, when we're going for a championship, the crowd are bound to be nervous and the players will be nervous but that's natural when you're going for something that's worthwhile winning.”

Although Smith anticipates some close games he is confident his players can rise to the challenge.

He said: “The games are going to be tough so we just need to keep lifting ourselves. That's one thing I'll say about my team, I'm proud in the way they play.

“In the first half against Motherwell there wasn't much in it and they had a lot of possession but in the second half we dominated the game.

“The players always lift themselves and put in a great deal of effort to do so.”

Rangers had ditched their familiar 4-5-1 formation for a more attacking 4-4-2 in a game they knew they had to win to keep the destination of the SPL in their own hands.

A heroic performance by Motherwell goalkeeper Graeme Smith looked like frustrating them until Ferguson popped up at the back post to fire home after a Steven Davis corner had been flicked on across the goalmouth.

Rangers received a further boost when talented midfielder Charlie Adam appeared for the final 15 minutes.

Adam had been expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury but his recovery has been completed ahead of schedule and he is now desperate to play a part in a thrilling end to the season which includes the UEFA Cup and Scottish Cup finals as well as the league battle.

“When the injury happened there was a bit of worry that I could be out for the season but the physios have really helped me and I've worked hard myself,” said Adam.

“Five weeks is a long time to be out and I've missed some fantastic matches but there are still fantastic matches to come between now and the end of the season.”

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