Rangers defender David Bates believes it is realistic for his side to set their sights on bridging the gap between themselves and Celtic at the top of the Premiership in the wake of Saturday’s 0-0 draw between the teams.
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The result left Rangers in third place in the league table, 11 points behind champions Celtic as the top flight goes into hibernation for the next three weeks.
Bates, who earned the official Man of the Match prize for his display after replacing the injured Bruno Alves after just 18 minutes, insists Rangers can find greater levels of consistency in the second half of the season when they return from their winter break trip to Florida where they will play Brazilian sides Atletico Mineiro and Corinthians in friendlies.
“No, I don’t think bridging the gap is unrealistic,” said the 21-year-old. “We just need that bit of consistency about us. We went on that run of four wins recently, but then lost a couple. We need to get consistency. We have dropped points too easily, especially in home games.
“Saturday was definitely the benchmark for us. You can’t play at that level all the time but we have to defend well, then try to get on the ball, be calm on the ball and try to play our stuff.
“All the games are different. Celtic are going to have a lot of the ball, especially at their own place. When you play against Dundee or Hamilton, they are going to sit in and try and play on the counter-attack. So it’s a completely different game, but it is something we should maybe get better at because we have taken points from the likes of Aberdeen and Hibs, so maybe we need to do better against others.
“That performance against Celtic shows what we have as a team. We have a lot of injuries too with Kenny Miller, Graham Dorrans, Lee Wallace and Ryan Jack all out. So remember we have a lot of players to come back from injuries in the second half of the season.
“We’ve got the winter break now, we go to Florida and Graeme Murty can put his stamp on the team. He has three weeks to put across how he wants us to play. It will be a good trip and confidence will be high for the second half of the season. We can’t wait to get started again.”
With Portuguese veteran Alves facing a potentially lengthy spell on the sidelines, Bates may now have an opportunity to claim a regular slot in the centre of the Rangers defence alongside Danny Wilson.
“I’m not sure how bad Bruno’s injury is,” added Bates. “I just need to try and get on the pitch and do as well as I can. I played at Aberdeen recently when he was also out but unfortunately I then dropped out of the team again. I just need to keep pushing for a place.
“It’s just about trying to establish yourself. Obviously, you have the likes of Bruno who has played for Portugal I don’t know how many times and you have Danny who is a top class centre half. So trying to get into the team is hard. So if I get a chance I have to just keep trying to put a performance in and hopefully I can get a run of games.
“Coming into a game at short notice like that is always difficult, especially at Celtic Park. I saw Bruno waving across to the bench, so I went out for a warm-up but I didn’t get much of one really.
“It’s always going to be tougher coming into an Old Firm game. I was glad to get in at half-time, get my breath back and go again.
“I know Danny really well. I played a lot of games with him last season and again recently. He talks me through the games really well and he’s a great defender
“It was good to get a point but we know that Alfredo missed a couple of headers and I can’t really remember Celtic having too many clear-cut chances in the second half. So the boys are disappointed not to take all three points.”