Rangers manager Ally McCoist retains title belief, despite loss

Rangers defenders Darren McGregor and Lee McCulloch
Rangers were beaten by Hearts for a second time this season

Ally McCoist believes Rangers' deficit in the Scottish Championship title race is "not insurmountable".

The Ibrox side lost 2-0 at Hearts and are now nine points behind Robbie Neilson's men.

"It's going to be difficult," said McCoist of his team's chances of overtaking Hearts.

"We are not halfway into the season, there's a long long way to go. I am still as firmly focused, determined and full of belief as I ever have been."

Asked about any added pressure on him following Rangers' third league defeat of the season, McCoist replied: "I don't think about that myself and that's the truth.

"My only concern is the team and the club getting back to where we want to be.

"Today is another reminder that it's going to be difficult, very difficult.

"Hearts are playing very well but I think we showed enough, particularly in the first half, that we are more than capable of closing that gap.

Rangers defender Steven Smith is sent off against Hearts
McCoist felt Smith (far right) let his team-mates down by getting sent off

"Nine points is not ideal, far from it, but we have a firm belief that we can do it. It's not going to be easy but we still believe we can be champions come May."

Fans reacted angrily to the withdrawal of Lewis Macleod as Rangers trailed 1-0 during the second half but McCoist said: "I've had it before, probably more than most. I am aware of it, absolutely.

"It ain't nice, I'd be lying if I told you otherwise. But I've been in the game long enough to know that it's part and parcel, particularly at the club."

Rangers played most of the match with 10 men following Steven Smith's dismissal for a first-half challenge on Callum Paterson.

Kenny Miller and substitute Kris Boyd received cautions for late tackles as the visitors toiled.

"Initially, crazy as it may seem, the way the game went for 10 minutes after the sending-off wasn't too bad," added McCoist. "I thought we were the better team in the first half by some considerable way.

"But I was very disappointed in the sending off. It put us up against it, against a team who are playing very well at the moment. I feel Steven has let his team-mates down with the challenge.

"There were one or two needless challenges, particularly in the second half, that put us under pressure again, and then you have to make decisions, because you are down to 10 men and don't want to lose any more men. That was a disappointment.

"But the positives are we absolutely kept going until the end and were fully committed."

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