Boss Walter Smith lauds Rangers resolve

Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty
Lafferty took advantage of a St Johnstone error to give Rangers the lead

Rangers manager Walter Smith praised his team's concentration on the pitch, despite the club's protracted takeover, after they beat St Johnstone to move top of the league.

The 2-0 victory leaves Rangers a point clear of Cetic as businessman Craig Whyte tries to take control at Ibrox.

"We have a smaller group of players as we've been downsizing for three years," said Smith.

"But from our point of view we've handled the situation very well."

BBC Scotland has learned that the Whyte takeover is still a work in progress, although no deal had as yet been agreed.

It was against that backdrop, and with the chance to regain top spot in the Scottish Premier League for the first time in 2011, that Rangers went to Perth for the 1800 BST kick-off.

Despite looking far from their best, goals by Kyle Lafferty and Steven Naismith in each half were enough to take them to the SPL summit, with Celtic playing their game in hand on Wednesday evening against Hibernian.

"You've got to take into consideration the pitch," said Smith of the match as a spectacle.

"It's an awkward one to play on - for both the teams - but it was a situation we did very well to handle.

"If you look at the game, one of the aspects was that any error was going to cause a problem.

"And our team held their concentration throughout the game.

"They made a mistake [from Danny Grainger's short passback], but it was well taken by Lafferty to score.

"Allan McGregor made a really good save to keep the scoreline as it was at 1-0, and Naismith gave us comfort near the end."

Rangers were again able to name seven substitutes, after being forced to deploy only five because of injuries during Saturday's 3-2 defeat by Dundee United.

And Smith revealed that the situation could be alleviated even further, with the impending return of two key players.

"We hope to have Madjid Bougherra and Lee McCulloch back within the next week or so," he said.

"That will give us a lift because at one stage we didn't think we would get Lee back before the end of the season, and now we definitely will."

Midfielder McCulloch, 32, has been out of action since the start of February with a cyst on his knee but, following surgery, his progress has been better than expected.

Algerian defender Bougherra has not featured for Rangers since their Co-operative Insurance Cup final win, where he limped off with a hamstring injury.

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