KENNY Black has urged his young side to rise to the challenge when Walter Smith’s Rangers visit New Broomfield tonight (Wednesday).
The glamour friendly sees former Ibrox kids Steven McDougall, Stephen McKenna and Graeme Watson line up against their former club.
Smith, just three weeks into his tenure in Govan, is expected to bring a strong side in what will be Rangers’ first visit to the stadium.
The Diamonds gaffer, who this week took a look at Albion Rovers defender Gordon Lennon in training, is excited about the match despite initial reservations.
He said: “It will be a good game for us now. I did think initially that it was a game we could have done without but we are looking forward to it now.
“The players are all up for it and are all keen to play and test themselves against top quality opposition.
“It will be interesting to see how they get on.
“They will be sending a strong side. “They are not in the Scottish Cup and I think the new manager wants to have a look at his whole squad.
“It’s a match everyone will be looking forward to and we will be approaching it like any other.
“But we won’t be taking any risks because the home game against Dundee on Saturday is a much bigger game for us.”
Indeed it is and Black hopes to follow up Saturday’s 1-0 win over Clyde with another home victory against Dundee.
Keeper Stephen Robertson kept Airdrie in the game with a string of vital saves and the Airdrie boss admitted it had been a hard-fought but merited victory.
He said: “I was pleased with them and in particular the character of the side.
“We have probably played better this season and lost but we really dug deep and got the points.
“We were down to the bare bones and guys like Graeme Watson and Bryan Prunty were playing out of position but worked their socks off and I was delighted with them.
“Graeme has had few opportunities this season but he’d be very unlucky if he didn’t retain his place after that performance.
“We now need to take that into the Dundee game. We are the only league game taking place on Saturday and we have the chance to get up to third bottom which would be a huge psychological boost to us.”
As we went to press on Tuesday, Black was still desperately trying to bring at least one new defender to the club with Neil McGowan the latest victim of the Airdrie injury curse.
He damaged ankle ligaments in Saturday’s win and is expected the be out for at least a month and with Stuart Taylor and Kevin Christie also struggling to make the Dundee clash, Black’s resources are being stretched to breaking point.
Albion Rovers stopper Gordon Lennon was training with the club this week while full-back Craig Potter has been offered a deal until the end of the season.
But the Airdrie boss admitted he was becoming increasingly frustrated at his failure to land a new centre-half.
He said: “You could say it is a bit of nightmare. It has been very frustrating up to now.
“We have enough forwards and midfielders and everyone knows we need defenders.
“But every injury or suspension that we have had since I came to club have been defenders.
“Gordon Lennon acquitted himself very well and certainly didn’t do himself any harm. But we will wait and see because he is a full-time student just now.
“There are two or three other things possibly happening but I am waiting for other clubs.
“They have to bring people in before they can let anyone else leave.
“After Wednesday, I can still bring in players that are out-of-contract and are free agents. Emergency loan deals are available as well.
“We need to strengthen our squad because we had an under-19 kid on our bench because we couldn’t fill it.
“We can’t keep operating like that.”
As we went to press on Tuesday afternoon, Aime Koudou was still mulling over Airdrie’s contract offer while the deal to bring Kevin McDonald looks doomed with Hibs yet to decide whether they will be offering him a new contract.
Marc Smyth returns from suspension against Dundee but is likely to be on the bench as punishment for his red card against St Johnstone.
Meanwhile in this week’s Airdrie United Lottery draw, five people shared the £800 prize after 3, 11 and 16 were selected.
Tonight’s game kicks-off at 7.45pm and costs £10 and £5 concessions.