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By Emma Dodds


Walter Smith has admitted he thought the goal would never come for Rangers tonight, but has praised his players for fighting until the end against Red Star at Ibrox.


Novo scores against Red Star


The Light Blues now take a slender one-goal lead to Belgrade in a fortnight's time and although this tie is by no means finished, they are in poll position to progress.


It was a hard-fought victory by Gers and they had to contend with some physical play from the visitors, with seven of their players being booked, but Novo took his goal well much to Smith's delight.


He said: "The tie is not over we know that, but it was a good feeling to see the ball hit the back of the net.


"We're obviously pleased with the result, it was a tight game and not many chances for either side. But we kept going and secured what was eventually a good result.


"We are proving very hard to score against and while it might not be the most pleasing on the eye just now, it's effective.


"It's always hard to strike a balance between defending and attacking because the away goal is so valuable, so to come away with a win and a clean sheet is very pleasing.


"We know there are certain aspects of our game we need to improve on, but tonight we did a decent job and will look forward to the return leg.


"It's been a busy period for us thus far, but the players are coping well and hopefully that can continue.The referee warns a Red Star player


"Nacho has a great spirit and we know what he can offer to the team. He always gives his all and once again tonight he scored a crucial goal.


"He took it well and the players deserve credit for fighting until the final whistle because that goal came late."


Rangers now have two SPL matches, against Falkirk and Kilmarnock, before going to Belgrade for the match on August 28 and Smith is hopeful his side can do enough to progress into the group stage.


He added: "We have managed to win all the games we've played so far and are proving hard to break down.


"Our players have worked extremely hard and that is a good foundation for us. I'm sure we'll see an improvement in time, once everyone gets to know each other.


"For now we're in a winning position and hopefully we can hold on to that in Belgrade."

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You got to admire Walter's interviewing technique, he's a pleasure to listen to. He totally acknowledges any obvious weakness while talking up the positive aspects. He's also very respectful and dignified, realising that the ultimate end user of his comments, are his own club's fans.


He's several classes above the likes of the sarcastic Strachan, and Paul Tight Lips Guen as well as exasperating excuses Eck.

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PS You've also got to forgive him for the very careful tactics in this must win tie.


We can save our attacking formations for the home games in the CL proper when the financial risk is gone and losing away goals is not so crucial.


Agreed, the most important thing is to qualify and then,as you say,we can have a real go at teams in the group stages :cheers:

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In another interview I heard on the radio this morning, I got the impression that WS was having a go at the fans for booing at the half time whistle but IMO I thought the booing was directed at the cheating/diving/time wasting Serbs rather than our players.

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Very refreshing to have WS making post match interviews - he says it as he sees it.


We all know that we currently aren't the most attractive footballing team but lets not forget that the task WS, AM and KM had when they arrived was mammoth. They have done an admirable job thus far and IMO things will only get better, including more attractive footballing performances. We have stability and once the players gel we will hopefully see a team with confidence that are prepared to force their will on a game.


It is encouraging to see the players last a full 90 mins too - seems the fitness coach is doing his job well, which is also pleasing.

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Those that want total football right now have very unrealistic expectations. We've been pretty rubbish for two years now so I'm 100% happy with building from the back.


It's not pretty but it's effective and that's what we need right now. At least our wins looked inevitable - well the clean sheets did anyway.


We are building massive confidence at the back and that gives the forwards less fear of taking a risk or two in the opponents half. It's only a matter of time before we start playing better football in the other half of the pitch.


I remember the start of two seasons ago, when Eck was getting the results but the team were awful in all departments and looked like they could lose goals and games at any time. Changed days indeed.


I remember the start of last season when PLG's team looked like they could play football but couldn't win a string of games and perpetually let in silly goals. Changed days indeed.


Out of the last three seasons, this start is by far the best - so much so, that it is incomparable.

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I agree calscot.


I think it is a trait of WS to start from the back, and where better to start ? If you don't lose goals you don't lose games. He did this in his 1st stint too, made us difficult to score against.


When you do that your midfield and forwards are much more comfortable knowing they have a solid defence behind them - for the last 2 seasons if we went 1-0 up we, the fans, always hoped for a 2nd goal because there was no confidence in the defence to not let a goal in.


Now... if we score a goal we are pretty confident that we will AT LEAST win 1-0 - changed days indeed.


As the defence maintains its stinginess in letting goals in the midfield (BF in particular) should feel more free to express themselves from a creative viewpoint.


WS and his team had a HUGE task ahead of them and this bear is very thankful foe the job they have thus far done in getting us much closer to Celtic in terms of starting 11 and the squad - last season we had, in my opinion, a starting 11 to match them but no strength in depth - this season I think we have both. Long may that continue.


Hopefully the flowing football will come - but given the last 2 seasons we have had I will take the less attractive football for now so long as we are winning games and competing in all competitions, which again we haven't been doing for 2 or 3 years now.

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Its encouraging that we've got our defence sorted out, I don't remember us looking this solid at the back in a very, very long time, I'm talking 5 years+ to be honest. While we do obviously lack a creative player in the middle, I'm not sure why Walter doesn't just stick out a 4-4-2 with someone like McCulloch and/or Cousin through the middle and play the long ball game. I've been amazed by McCulloch's ability in the air, so you'd have thought if we're struggling on the ground, why not play it in the air.


I don't think WS knows who his best XI is and seems to be trying to play the more talented players like our midfield trio, at the expense of the overall shape & direction of the side. It'll be interesting to see how things develop this year, but at the moment the results are the important thing. I just can't help but feel that we could be making it a bit easier on ourselves if he plays to our strengths a bit more.

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