Emotion Could Play Big Part In Today's CIS Final

Last updated : 16 March 2008 By Ed_Scottishfitba

Dundee United defender Lee Wilkie is nursing a cold but hopes to be ready for today's CIS Insurance Cup final with Rangers. Manager Craig Levein expects him to take his place in the starting line-up at Hampden but there will be no places for Jim O'Brien, Danny Grainger and Danny Swanson who are all cup-tied for the Tannadice side. This leaves Levein with a selection dilemma after an under-strength side secured a 0-0 draw at Celtic in midweek. Defender Darren Dods cannot believe he is chasing his first cup winner's medal only months after arriving at Tannadice. Dods' last final appearance came when Sandy Clark's St Johnstone lost 2-1 to Rangers in 1998 in the League Cup final at Parkhead. Dods is now determined to gain revenge on the Ibrox outfit, but can scarcely believe a final opportunity has arisen so soon. United boss Craig Levein brought Dods from Inverness last June and his only goal was to achieve a top-six spot in the SPL this season, never mind lift silverware. He said: "I didn't think I'd get to a cup final so soon after moving to the club, you never expect anything like this. Trying to get into the top six was my aim at the start of the season and we're currently third, but to get to a cup final is the icing on the cake. You just try to get through the rounds but we never envisaged going all the way through to the final. I got to the final with St Johnstone in 1998 and Rangers beat us 2-1. Apart from that, the quarters is the furthest I've got since then."

Dods has impressed as part of a resolute rearguard for Levein's men this term and knows such form will have to continue against Walter Smith's UEFA Cup quarter-finalists. Rangers remain on track for four trophies and Dods feels the size of their squad allows them to cope with such a workload, even if they had an energy-draining night against Werder Bremen on Thursday. He added: "
I saw Rangers the other night. Germany is a hard place to go but they got the result and it's great for them. I think Tottenham showed when they won the Carling Cup final, that you can play in the UEFA Cup on a Thursday and still come back home and win at the weekend. The squad Rangers have got means they'll no doubt make three or four changes for the final."

Rangers' manager Walter Smith will be forced into a reshuffle as midfielder Charlie Adam and striker Nacho Novo - who both started the UEFA Cup match against Werder Bremen - are out due to suspension. Steven Naismith is cup-tied after playing for Kilmarnock earlier in the competition, Daniel Cousin (broken jaw) is ruled out, and there are doubts over winger Chris Burke (ankle) who was receiving treatment on Friday. Jean-Claude Darcheville could be back in contention after recovering from an Achilles injury. Smith is not taking anything for granted and accepts Dundee United could wreck his team's bid for the domestic treble. Rangers' 20-game unbeaten run ended on Thursday. Despite losing the tie Rangers could still celebrate as they reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals after wining 2-1 on aggregate over Werder Bremen. Smith is well aware of the emotion felt by United's players linked to delivering a cup for United chairman Eddie Thompson who is terminally ill. There will be little need for Levein to gee his side up for the occasion. Smith, a former United player and coach himself, has followed Levein's managerial progress attentively since the ex-Hearts boss took charge at Tannadice in October 2006. He knows Levein's players could take advantage if there is anything disjointed about Rangers' performance at Hampden.

Smith said: "
If we talk about the confidence in the Rangers camp being reasonably high, I think it'll be every bit as high in the Dundee United camp. Craig Levein took over at Dundee United just shortly before I came back to Rangers and Craig has turned their fortunes around as well. They're having an extremely good season, and I always remember my time there. We didn't get to that many finals overall and you look forward to that, and I think Craig and his squad will look forward, as we will, to the first final of the season. Both clubs have been far more consistent this season and played to a better level than they have done previously. So a good final looks like it's about to take place. There's no doubt he's an excellent manager. He had no real need to prove that, but he's doing it again and because it's my old club I always like to see them do well."

Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba.net)

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