Scottish Premier League

Mackay-Steven wary of Celtic

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Fri, 15 Feb 2013 16:59:00

Rangers manager Ally McCoist has no fresh injury worries ahead of Saturday's Scottish Third Division clash with Clyde at Broadwood.

However, the Light Blues have no players returning from injury either, with skipper Lee McCulloch, Francisco Sandaza, Ross Perry, Lewis Macleod and Kevin Kyle still sidelined.

Youngster Kal Naismith serves the second of a two-match ban for the league leaders, with McCoist expecting to name a similar squad to last week.

Victory over Ross County, combined with a draw in the match between Motherwell and Inverness, would allow Saints to pull level on points with Caley Thistle in the coveted runners-up position.

But, with a tough seven days ahead, including a meeting with SPL leaders Celtic, Lomas is taking nothing for granted.

He said: "We would like to get top six again. We had a taste of it last year so we would like to get there again.

"Its very tight and we've got a very big week Ross County away, Celtic at home and St Mirren at home.

"Ross County are probably one of the form teams and so are St Mirren. Playing Celtic in-between is going to be tough.

"We are under no illusions that we are probably going to have to win at least another three or four games to get into that top six.

"The old cliche comes in that you are only looking at one game.

"We've got three games in seven days, which will stretch us and everybody in the squad will have to play a part.

"We're not really focusing past that."

St Johnstone make the trip to Dingwall boosted by an impressive 3-1 win over Hibernian at Easter Road on Monday night.

Lomas said: "Confidence should be high, it was a good performance.

"But it's gone now, it's put to bed, and well have to try to repeat it now.

"I don't think Ross County have been beaten since the turn of the year.

"They are a very efficient side and the manager has brought in four or five very good signings, he's probably been the busiest of the managers in the SPL.

"All credit to them, they are a decent, well-organised team."

Ross County look set to comfortably survive their first season in the top flight and Lomas has been impressed by the SPL newcomers so far this term.

He said: "They are very organised, very workman-like, with a very good team spirit about them.

"They have good quality as well, which isn't a bad combination. It's never an easy place to go to.

"All credit to them, they've bedded themselves right in there and its going to be a tough game."

Last year's First Division champions are unbeaten in their last six games and are in ninth place in the table following last week's 2-0 win over bottom side Dundee at Dens Park, which came with the help of a goal from midfielder Lawson.

Saints are in fourth place but only four points ahead of County and the former Celtic player is looking to get into the top half of the table.

"We've got the top six in our sights, you want to finish as high as you can," he said.

"We'll take each game as it comes but in the longer term it would be great to finish up there

"It's been a great run, each game brings even more confidence and the games of late have pushed up the table which has been nice.

"Obviously it takes time to settle in to the SPL, we started well but then had a little dip in form.

"However we've responded well and are concentrating of keeping the run going and if we can keep it going then it would be great.

"As the table show there's nothing between the teams.

"St Johnstone got a good result away to Hibs on Monday but it's all about us and, as I said, we want to keep our unbeaten run going."

Lawson is enjoying first-team action again after injuries disrupted the start to his season.

The former Scotland Under-21 player, who has been at Ross County since 2007 when the club was in the Irn-Bru Division Two, said: "It's nice to be back in the side and the run we're on at the moment makes it easier.

"And on a personal note I just want to continue doing well for the team.

"I had a couple of niggling injuries at the start of the season and when you come back and get injured again it's never nice.

"When I was fit I couldn't get into the team, which is very frustrating but just got to keep the head down and work hard.

"The starting 11 are doing very well but we're being pushed by the guys on the bench and even the guys in the stands are of a high quality and they're training well and pushing the guys all the way."

McLean has had to live with endless speculation about his future over the past year and it is believed within the club that he is likely to depart in the summer.

The 21-year-old, though, is more excited about the possibility of a Scottish Communities League Cup winners medal when the Buddies go up against Hearts in the Hampden final next month.

And the Scotland Under-21 player also harbours dreams of glory in the Scottish Cup, where the Buddies host Celtic in the quarter-finals next month.

It is the prospect of silverware and success which is driving McLean on.

He said: "We have the final coming up so there is a great chance for a medal and that is massive for someone at such a young age like myself.

"I am enjoying my football at St Mirren, enjoying life in the SPL which is a good level, so there isn't much more you can ask for at 21.

"People keep saying a move is going to happen but I need to put that to the back of my mind and concentrate on what's in front of me.

"If I do go I think it has got to be right for both parties.

"The club have treated me ever so well since I came here from Rangers as a young boy when things didn't work out at Ibrox.

"They took me in and gave me my chance at such a young age.

"I have played 70 or 80 games for the first team which is great.

"So I think any move has got to be right for both parties and the club will say the same, I'm sure."

McLean admits the Hampden showpiece occasion on March 17 against the Gorgie club looms large but knows final places will be up for grabs in the intervening matches.

Ahead of the visit of Hibernian in the SPL on Saturday, he said: "The final is always going to be there at the back of your mind.

"It is a massive achievement for the players, the management and the staff, for everybody.

"But there are plenty games before that and I think we need to concentrate on what's ahead of us, take it game by game and get a good bit of momentum going and keep it going and hopefully come the final, we will still be playing well.

"Hibs aren't playing too well but you can't look too much into that.

"It's about what happens on the day, we know that, we have a good run going right now but we were on a bad run ourselves."

McLean, unsurprisingly, pinpointed Leigh Griffiths as the Hibees danger man.

The colourful Easter Road striker scored a brace in both 2-1 wins over the Buddies this season.

McLean said: "He has done a bit of damage to us so we need to keep him quiet and hopefully that will be half the battle."

The Bees will make the short trip to their more illustrious west London neighbours this weekend for a fourth round replay that will live long in the memory.

Around 6,000 Brentford fans are expected to make the trip to Stamford Bridge, just three weeks after holding the European champions to a 2-2 draw at Griffin Park.

Only Fernando Torres' equaliser seven minutes from time saved Chelsea from one of the great FA Cup shocks, but Rosler believes an upset is still on the cards.

"I think first of all there will be a big factor of excitement going to Stamford Bridge," the former Manchester City forward said.

"I think excitement will take over and they will be very motivated. My players will raise their standards in terms of physical capabilities, hopefully by five to 10 per cent, which is needed to compete.

"Obviously Chelsea will take us more seriously than the first game and I am looking forward to what will be a great test for us, for everybody involved.

"I still believe it is possible. The chances are slimmer but I think it is still possible.

"The crucial thing for us is that we are competitive in the first half an hour.

"We need to keep it at 0-0 in the first half an hour, keep our options open and also be brave to attack them."

Brentford come into the match off the back of Tuesday night's 2-0 defeat of Stevenage, while Chelsea last night overcame Sparta Prague 1-0 in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie.

Rosler has yet to watch that game as he spent Valentine's Day with his family, but knows what to expect when he watches the DVD later.

"We have to be compact, win the ball in the right areas and not make any mistakes," the German said.

"We need to counter them and the longer it is 0-0, the bigger our chance becomes because they will put more men forward and be more open.

"We will have players on the bench that can come on and change the game for us.

"Chelsea is a fantastic club and it is a fantastic opportunity for this club, everybody connected with Brentford.

"To play against such a big club like Chelsea is fantastic."

Despite the size of the task ahead of them, Rosler has pledged to approach the match just like any other.

That said, he is aware of his responsibility to keep his players calm, relaxed and focused.

"Never since I joined the club had a player late for a meeting, but before the first game two players came late," he said.

"It was not because they were undisciplined, it was because they were nervous and forgot to look at their watch.

"The excitement at times can take over and the big key for my coaching staff and me is to make them feel comfortable."

Jake Bidwell could feature at Stamford Bridge after missing the first game through suspension, but long-term absentees Kevin O'Connor and Farid El Alagui remain out.

Rosler also revealed several unnamed players are nursing less serious injury complaints.

"We have one or two knocks, although I won't tell you who it is," he added.

"We will make one or two changes, but in general, apart from our two long-term injuries, we have everybody available."

McFadden is back training with Motherwell after a brief spell at Sunderland ended and a move to Nottingham Forest fell through when he travelled to the City Ground on the day Alex McLeish left his short reign as manager there.

McFadden, who hit 32 goals for Motherwell as a teenager, has already been back at the club for two weeks and a move looks unlikely after contract talks with Fir Park chief executive Leeann Dempster failed to come to fruition before he signed for Sunderland.

Black, speaking at the pre-match media conference ahead of Saturday's SPL clash with Inverness, said: "James has come in very similar to what he did a few months back. He came in looking for training facilities.

"We are more than willing to accommodate him. James came in, got himself fit and got himself a move to Sunderland.

"He is now back up and it's really much of the same.

"He is keeping himself ticking over, a local lad, and we're happy to have him on board.

"That's as far as it goes, nothing has changed from the last time he was here."

Motherwell manager Stuart McCall had some money left in his playing budget but with 10 players out of contract in the summer he might want to plan for the long term instead of trying to sign McFadden on a short-term deal.

Black added: "I don't know the finances in regards to if we can offer him anything.

"I do know that we have lost Jamie Murphy and brought Kallum Higginbotham in and we have a lot of frustrated players at Motherwell.

"Bob McHugh did tremendous during the week and scored a hat-trick for the under-20s.

"Whether we can accommodate James McFadden will probably be for the chief executive to deal with.

"It makes sense if you have the finances to do it. I don't know how many games James got at Sunderland.

"But we are certainly happy to have him in because he is well-liked around the place."

McFadden, 29, has only played 11 games, most of them off the bench, during spells at Everton and Sunderland since coming back from a cruciate ligament injury suffered in September 2010.

But Motherwell midfielder Nicky Law believes he could help fire the club into Europe if he were to sign on.

Law said: "I don't know what he's thinking or the club is thinking but we would love him to join.

"He's a top, top player, you can see that in training. It would be a huge boost if we could get him.

"You could look towards someone like that to pick you up extra points as the season goes on."

Motherwell will go second without McFadden if they beat Inverness on Saturday for a third time this season.

Motherwell's 5-1 victory at the Caledonian Stadium in November was the first time their hosts had lost since a 4-1 defeat at Fir Park, and their only defeat in 21 games.

But, although the visitors are without a win in five, Law is not expecting an easy game tomorrow.

Law said: "They have been brilliant. We think we have done well this season and they are a point ahead of us on probably one of the lowest budgets in the league.

"The 4-1 game here probably flattered us. The 5-1 game was probably our best performance of the season and just about everything went right for us that day.

"I think it will be a lot tighter tomorrow. They don't usually concede many goals and they score a lot.

"They have good individual players - Aaron Doran, Andy Shinnie and Billy McKay have been among the three best players in the league."

Mackay-Steven feels Celtic will be raring to bounce back after some missed chances and defensive errors undermined an impressive overall display in their 3-0 home loss on Tuesday night.

Celtic have faltered after a number of Champions League games this season but Mackay-Steven, whose team lost 4-0 at Celtic Park last month, said: "I think it will be as difficult as it always is.

"Going to Parkhead is never easy and they will be looking to get a positive result after what happened on Tuesday.

"They will be at the races so we need to make sure we are.

"They will be right up for the game. I felt they played well on Tuesday night and were unlucky to lose 3-0.

"They will definitely be looking to bounce back so we will need to perform as well as we can to get anything from the game."

United go into the game on a high after recording two victories and six goals, against Rangers and Hearts, in their opening two matches under Jackie McNamara.

Mackay-Steven said: "We will be confident, we have done well in the last few games.

"Hopefully we can start off well and keep that going.

"Not too much has changed. The manager has come in with a few different ideas in training.

"He is great to work with and speaks well to the boys.

"Everyone is flying in training and enjoying it again.

"Peter Houston did a great job as well but the new manager has his own ideas and it has been a fresh start for everyone, even the boys that have not been playing.

"It's a fresh chance for everyone to prove themselves and it has kept everyone on their toes."

The former Liverpool and Airdrie player has made five successive starts after coming back from a broken hand, his second injury lay-off this season.

The 23-year-old said: "I'm pretty much there or thereabouts. I have had quite a lot of games under my belt now and been training well, so I feel nearly 100% now."

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