Rangers midfielder Andy Halliday believes his side’s recent resurgence can be attributed to the squad finding new ways to win without abandoning their footballing principles.
The 25-year-old claims that the 2-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle earlier this month was a pivotal moment for Mark Warburton’s men. It led to a no-holds-barred team meeting and subsequent victories at home to Aberdeen and Hearts and away to Hamilton have left Rangers seven points clear of the Dons in the race to be best of the rest.
Rangers remain wedded to the passing game introduced by Warburton but they are now prepared to be pragmatic rather than pretty when the need arises.
Halliday is anxious to maintain their momentum against Inverness at Ibrox today and St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Wednesday before they host Celtic on Hogmanay but he insists the earlier win over Aberdeen was crucial.
“I always believe that every game is massive for this football club but, after losing at Tynecastle, there was an extra spice to the one against Aberdeen,” he said.
“We knew that we needed to start putting in performances and getting results and, three matches down the line, we’ve picked up nine points. They’ve also been three convincing displays. The 2-1 scoreline against Hamilton didn’t reflect that but they were, arguably, our three best performances of the season.
“We had a lot to say, as a group, after losing to Hearts. Our video analysis usually lasts for about 20 minutes but it went on for an hour after that because we all had a lot to say about how we wanted to move forward as a group.
“Since then I think you’ve seen a different dimension to us. We’ll never deviate from how we want to play the game because that’s been imprinted on us over the last 18 months.”
Halliday admits to being surprised by how adventurous their Premiership rivals have been in their meetings to date, having grown accustomed to sides in the lower leagues parking the bus home and away.
“Opposing teams have been very brave against us this season and I don’t think we’ve always taken advantage by using a different way of playing to combat that,” he admitted.
“The gaffer always talks to us about finding solutions and that’s the key. In the last three games we’ve found those solutions.”
Celtic are currently 14 points clear at the top of the tree, with a game in hand and a vastly superior goal difference, but Halliday and his team-mates are not disposed to concede the title.
“Such are the demands and expectations at this football club that we need to win every game,” he said. “We can never settle for second and I’m not going to apologise for that.
“Celtic were always going to be favourites to win the league and deservedly so because their start to this campaign has been phenomenal. But it’s important for us to win. We just need to keep chipping away at their lead and, hopefully, by the end of the season, we should be okay.”
Warburton, meanwhile, insists midfielder Jordan Rossiter, pictured, will come good for Rangers once the club’s medical staff have identified the source of the calf injuries which have dogged him this season.
The £250,000 summer signing from Liverpool suffered with ankle and hamstring problems during his time at Anfield and his last first-team appearance was on 26 August, when he lasted 58 minutes of the 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. “He has had niggling injuries and we have to find out the root cause of them, simple as that,” said his manager. “He has a fantastic future and, when he plays for Rangers, he will be here for years to come.
“Jordan is a top young talent and fans will be excited when they see him properly. They have seen him six times and like what they see.
“He’s more frustrated than anybody it hasn’t been more, let me assure you of that but he can’t come back for two or three weeks and break down. Or three or four weeks and break down again.
“We need to get him to a position where he knows he is fit and well. He is 19-years-old, a young athlete and we have to get him right.”