Football Expert & Columnist
Andy Walker says Ally McCoist is increasingly under pressure at Rangers
Ally McCoist faces a defining moment as Rangers boss in the Scottish Cup semis, says Andy Walker.
Last Updated: 08/04/14 6:40pm
The extra importance is that Rangers manager Ally McCoist is now under severe pressure to lead his team to a major domestic cup final against a backdrop of a growing number of fans questioning his ability to succeed in the Ibrox hot-seat.
Last season, Dundee United won by a comfortable three-goal margin in the same competition but McCoist has insisted he now has a better side with better players than last year.
Having covered that game for Sky, I agree with the Rangers manager that he has a better team but in fairness, so too has Jackie McNamara.
The big question for the Rangers players after the embarrassing defeat to Raith Rovers is whether they can handle the pressure of playing against an established SPFL side with pace, running power and plenty of energy?
What sort of reaction will McCoist get from a core group of experienced players who let him down badly last weekend?
Every time I've seen Rangers play this season they have unsurprisingly dominated possession in what is a basically a league made up of part-time players and clubs. The one guarantee on Saturday at Ibrox is that Dundee United will enjoy good spells of controlling the ball, something Rangers haven't been used to.
Another aspect will be the strong United support at Ibrox, some 13,000 in what is supposed to be a neutral venue. Again having to contend with such a vocal away support is not what these Rangers players are familiar with.
Having said that, I imagine the Rangers players will be pumped up for this game. The prize of taking part in Scottish football's end-of-season showpiece occasion is a massive one that should inspire them.
They certainly owe their manager and supporters big time. Despite winning back-to-back lower league titles, the truth is that too many Rangers fans regard the customary football on offer as a poor product.
Given the huge gulf in resources, Rangers fans quite rightly expect to see their team not just winning games but also being vastly superior, outclassing their weak opponents.
This is a stick the Rangers supporters use to criticise both players and manager and the truth is, they have a fair point. As for Dundee United, how will they cope with this big occasion?
I watched them play at home to Celtic last weekend and they too were far from impressive. Can Jackie McNamara's men handle the supposedly neutral venue and will his players be able to turn in a big performance?
Both sides are capable of so much more and it promises to be a marvellous occasion. Given that a winner is assured on the day with the game going to extra-time or penalties, excitement is guaranteed.
Twenty-four hours later, St Johnstone take on Aberdeen at the same venue. Derek McInnes deserves enormous credit for bringing one of Scottish football's biggest clubs back to life.
More than 40,000 Dons fans travelled to Celtic Park to see their team secure the Scottish League Cup two months ago and a cup double has to be their aim.
Aberdeen are huge favourites for this one and have the players for the big occasion. Adam Rooney has taken to his new club and scores goals regularly while Barry Robson and Willo Flood tend to dominate in midfield.
If St Johnstone defend well, they too have a potential matchwinner in Stevie May. He has had an outstanding season with more than 20 goals for a provincial club and another vital one on Sunday could see him secure a transfer down south at the end of the season.