No excuses from Smith

21 February 2011 09:00

Rangers manager Walter Smith refused to use their European schedule as an excuse for capitulating in Sunday's Old Firm derby, where rivals Celtic stretched their Clydesdale Bank Premier League lead to eight points.

The clash was sandwiched between Thursday's Europa League tie against Sporting Lisbon, which ended in a 1-1 draw at Ibrox, and the return leg in Portugal in a few days time. But, as far as Smith was concerned, his side simply were not good enough, regardless of their other fixtures.

He said: "We played in Champions League games earlier in the season and had to come back and play. It doesn't help but it's no excuse overall for the way we played."

However, Smith has made no secret of the difficulties he has faced in being forced to work with a compact squad and the strain of fighting on four fronts this season appears to be taking its toll.

Asked if he is having to ask too much of his small group of players, Smith said: "Only time will tell us if that's the case. If this game was an indication, then we have a lot to do.

"We've got to make sure we try and find an answer to that and that's my job as manager. It's my responsibility to try and get them up to a level. We are better than that, but credit to Celtic as they deserved to win. We need a bit of luck but we have to handle it.

"Up until the turn of the year, I felt that we were handling it and we were doing reasonably well, considering we had Champions League games.

"Since then we haven't really (handled it) and that culminated in this performance, which was as poor as we have had here for a while."

A double from Gary Hooper and a Kris Commons strike secured a comfortable win for Neil Lennon's men, in stark contrast to Rangers' 3-1 win at the same venue in October.

Smith added: "We had a fairly settled team in the first half of the season, while Celtic had a lot of new players to integrate into the team. We are now trying to do the same, only at a different time. That's causing us a bit of a problem, the disruption aspect of it."

Source: PA