London Hearts Supporters Club

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Smith relies on strikers to keep up the pressure

Ian Paul

31 Mar 1990

HOWEVER remote their chances of catching Rangers in the league race may have appeared, Aberdeen, to their credit, have demonstrated a splendid application and diligence as they waited for signs of vulnerability at Ibrox, writes Ian Paul.

The reward is in sight, as they travel to Dundee knowing they could reduce the gap at the top to a mere three points.

They would be a bit daft to make any presumptions about what will happen then, of course, as they would be even to consider that the points are waiting to be collected at Dens Park.

Dundee's need is even greater.

Their remarkable recovery from the equivalent of death's door has been so impressive that no team will meet them with any excessive confidence between now and the end of the season.

They have the other possible relegation candidates in their sights and are not likely to give up the fight easily now.

All of which the Aberdeen manager, Alex Smith, recognises.

"We have got to win our match before we can start talking about gaps in the league," he said, "and it will not be easy against a team that is on a high at the moment, especially after beating United last week.

Nevertheless, it would be a great lift for us if we could reduce the difference between us and Rangers to three points before they meet Celtic."

With Robert Connor fit, Smith has a strong pool from which to choose and the news that Theo Snelders and Willie Miller will play in the reserve game comes at a propitious time of the season for the northern club.

If both are available for next week's meeting with Rangers at Pittodrie, Smith will be content.

Meanwhile he looks to his prolific goalscorers, Hans Gillhaus and Charlie Nicholas, to continue their excellent form.

Dundee add Shaun McSkimming, Joe McBride, and Albert Craig to the 13 on duty last week as they try to extend a superb recent record -- they have lost only one game in the past seven.

Hibernian expect to have Andy Goram in his usual goalkeeping spot, despite the dislocated finger he sustained in training before pulling out of the Scotland international team on Wednesday, for the derby with Hearts at Easter Road.

John Collins and Paul Kane also are fit and ready to play in a game that Kane admits has been of a poor standard for some time.

"I think it is because everybody is afraid to make a mistake and be branded a villain until the next time the teams meet," he said, "but I believe we have front players who can score goals and help provide better stuff for the fans."

Those front players, Keith Houchen and Paul Wright, were given some praise by one of the men who will be in direct opposition, Dave McPherson.

"They could develop into an ideal partnership," he said, "with Paul's sharpness and Keith's height and strength.

I know we can't give Paul a look at goal because he shoots instinctively."

McPherson points out that the European experience enjoyed by the Tynecastle players last season has ensured their eagerness to qualify again.

"We are desperate to get into Europe, and winning tomorrow could be very important for that reason as well as others."

With Dave McCreery suffering from a virus, Neil Berry is likely to come in for Hearts.

St Mirren failed in an effort to sign another player, a West German, yesterday and so must face Motherwell at Love Street without additional ammunition.

The fact that they have not scored in their past six games and will still be without their main scorer, the injured Gudmundur Torfason, explains manager Tony Fitzpatrick's unease.

But Motherwell, who have not managed a goal since they went out of the Scottish Cup to Hearts last month, are not any better placed.

In fact, any man who manages a goal should be entitled to a lap of honour at Paisley.

If Motherwell can welcome back Davie Cooper their chances of achieving that will be greatly increased.

His absence through injury has coincided with their bleak, blank period.

Dunfermline, too, were trying to add to their pool last night as they prepared to welcome Dundee United to East End Park.

In the meantime if Istvan Kozma fails a fitness test the chances are that Sandy Clark, the 33-year-old who was sacked in controversial fashion as manager of Partick Thistle, could make his return to premier-division football.

United will have to do a lot of thinking on a replacement for Maurice Malpas, whose injury will cause him to miss only his second game in the past 150.

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