Rangers v Kilmarnock preview: Hosts look to respond to Celtic defeat
Last Updated: 16/03/18 10:06pm
Rangers boss Graeme Murty will be hoping for a reaction from his players to their defeat to 10-man Celtic when they host Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday.
The Gers led twice as they threatened to cut Celtic's lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership table to three points, but Celtic went on to win 3-2 for a fourth successive victory at Ibrox.
The defeat left Rangers nine points adrift of the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders having played a game more but Josh Windass is keen to make it a lasting response as they look to finish the season on a high.
"That was just one game," he said. "Obviously it would have brought us closer in the league if we won but that wasn't to be and our aim is to win the Scottish Cup.
"There is clearly still a gap because we have not beaten them yet but it's got a lot closer and I think the games are a lot closer than they used to be."
Meanwhile, Kilmarnock winger Chris Burke has told his younger team-mates to wring as much knowledge out of Steve Clarke's spell at Rugby Park as they can.
The former Scotland, Rangers, Cardiff and Birmingham winger rates Clarke as highly as any of his previous managers, who include Walter Smith, Alex McLeish, Dave Jones, Chris Hughton and Stuart Pearce.
Killie have only lost to Aberdeen and Hibernian since Clarke took over five months ago and it took penalty-kicks for the Dons to succeed at Rugby Park again in Tuesday's William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay.
The 34-year-old, who helped to kick off the impressive reign with a bang when he netted a stoppage-time equaliser at Ibrox in Clarke's first game, wants his team-mates to appreciate what they have got while they can.
Speaking ahead of another trip to face Rangers, Burke said: "You always see a reaction from players when a new manager steps in and picks things up and then it might tail off. But it shows how good the manager has been that it has sustained for a long period.
"We are consistent and I don't think we will change. I can see us playing the way we play and getting results until the end of the season. I am very confident in the team. Obviously it was great to get a point in his first game in charge, especially at Ibrox. But at the same time he is probably thinking he can improve on that.
"I have been fortunate enough to have had a good career where I have worked under different managers, and this manager is up there with the best I have worked with. What he has done here is a magnificent achievement."
Rangers defender David Bates begins a six-week absence with ankle ligament damage but Russell Martin is in contention to play after missing last weekend's defeat by Celtic with a back problem.
Lee Wallace (groin) and Graham Dorrans (ankle) are back playing for the U20s but not ready for first-team returns, while Ross McCrorie and Jordan Rossiter are also training while Ryan Jack (knee) is still out.
Kilmarnock have no fresh injury concerns. Jordan Jones and Greg Taylor both came through Tuesday's cup defeat to Aberdeen with no reaction to their recent injuries.
Gordon Greer (calf) is back training and Steven Smith (back) is closer to a comeback but both remain on the sidelines.
Rangers have picked up 61 points from the previous 69 on offer against Kilmarnock at Ibrox in the Scottish Premiership (P23 W20 D1 L2). However, Killie have lost just one of their last seven top-flight matches against Rangers (W3 D3), having lost 13 of the previous 14 (D1).
Rangers' 2-3 defeat to Celtic last time out ended a run of four consecutive victories - Rangers last lost back to back league games in December (1-3 v St. Johnstone and 1-2 v Kilmarnock).
Killie are unbeaten in seven league matches (W6 D1); in fact they have lost just one of their last 14 Scottish Premiership games (W9 D4).
Since the start of 2018, Windass has been directly involved in eight league goals for Rangers (six goals, two assists), more than any other player in the Scottish Premiership.