Pedro Caixinha reckons Rangers have finally earned the respect of their opponents - even though they now trail Celtic by five points just three games into the season.
The Ibrox boss was left frustrated as Gers were held to a goalless draw as dogged Hearts held on at Ibrox.
It was not the result the Light Blues faithful were looking for after last week’s drama-filled defeat to Hibernian and they let their boss know about it with a chorus of boos at full-time.
But Caixinha reckons the sight of Jambos frontman Kyle Lafferty spending most of the 90 minutes filling in as a make-shift left-back shows their Ladbrokes Premiership rivals are starting to grow wary of his team.
“Of course I know this football club is about winning games,” said the Portuguese boss. “And we know that the boys we have down there in the dressing room are winners. So we keep working in that direction.
“We know we are going to face more opponents like this, respecting us, so that is one point. When I arrived at Ibrox last season I understood that other teams were not respecting us, and today I feel that respect from the way the teams approach the game. That is one step ahead.
“We are winners and they are winners and we know that only with hard work and working together we are going to get the results.
“I am not surprised [by how defensive Hearts were], just surprised in a good way about how opponents are respecting us
“You see a very good striker like Lafferty spends all the entire match acting more like a left-back than a left winger so that shows the respect they show to us.
“That is the reality, we need to face it and we need to have solutions to turn back what opponents come up with. We need to learn how to beat lower blocks and teams that are more concerned about defence than attack but that is football and part of the game as well.”
The stats from Caixinha’s troubled five-month reign do not make for encouraging reading, with just nine wins from the 17 games he has presided over.
But the 46-year-old did not looked overly ruffled when it was pointed out his side are already lagging behind the rivals from across Glasgow.
“It is very early, don’t ask it,” he said. “That is the reality of the points, if it is early or it is late, we are focused on our task, our work and we will keep doing it.
“We always said we go game by game. It is difficult for us, we are disappointed because of the last six points available we have taken just one but we are focused on the next one.”
Hearts caretaker boss Jon Daly hopes his side’s battling display will enhance his chances of landing the Tynecastle post on a permanent basis.
“I think it shows I’m comfortable taking a first-team regardless if it’s Hearts or anyone else,” said the Irishman.
“The back-room staff and I work extremely hard so I think it shows we put in the hours, we put in the homework on the opposition.
“I think it also shows the players are buying into what we’re trying to do.”