Andy Halliday has admitted Rangers have failed to earn the status they craved as genuine title challengers in their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football.
The Ibrox side are in second place in the Premiership table at the halfway point of the campaign but trail champions and runaway leaders Celtic, who have a game in hand, by a yawning 16 points ahead of today’s Old Firm showdown in Govan.
Rangers have struggled to recover from an indifferent start to the season which saw them drop 10 points from their first seven matches, a sequence which included their comprehensive 5-1 loss at Celtic Park in September.
Mark Warburton’s side have gradually gathered greater momentum in recent weeks, taking 16 points from their last seven games. But they have still been left floundering in the wake of a Celtic team which has displayed exceptional consistency under Brendan Rodgers, dropping just two points so far in a still unbeaten domestic campaign.
Rangers midfielder Halliday has been left to rue the unreliable nature of his team’s form which saw a run of four consecutive league wins halted by a 1-1 draw against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Wednesday night.
“Celtic were always going to be favourites coming into this campaign but, from our point of view, we’ve dropped too many points so we probably haven’t deserved to be in a title race,” said Halliday.
“That was the case again at McDiarmid Park - when you’re on top, you need to take advantage and capitalise on the chances you’re creating.
“But if we keep dropping points then, like I’ve said, we don’t deserve to be in a title race. However, we do believe that we’ve gone back to our old ways in the last five matches and we’ve been playing well.”
Although holding off the challenge of Aberdeen and Hearts to secure runners-up spot in the Premiership is now the realistic limit of Rangers’ ambitions this season, Halliday remains adamant they have made significant progress on the pitch under Warburton’s guidance.
The Englishman’s position has been placed under intense scrutiny at times over the past few months and Halliday expressed a desire to deliver a positive outcome for him today.
“We do owe him one and hopefully we can put on a performance for him,” said the 25-year-old.
“If you look at a lot of the games this season, we have just not played well and that’s why I say we don’t deserve to be in a title race. We haven’t deserved to win some games and that’s a disappointing factor but I do think we have made huge strides since the gaffer came in 18 months ago.”