Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has urged his squad to defy their injury worries and “pull themselves together” for Saturday’s Old Firm showdown.
Gerrard was deflated as his team lost ground in the title race with Hibs scoring a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Ibrox. That leaves Rangers three points behind Celtic at the top of the Premiership table, having played a game more than the reigning champions.
Rangers also emerged from the afternoon with fresh injury concerns after defender Connor Goldson limped off. He is now rated extremely doubtful for Celtic’s visit to Ibrox.
Gerrard will assess his options over the next 24 hours as he awaits updates on current injury absentees including Gareth McAuley, Scott Arfield and Ryan Kent.
“Sometimes you have to go into football matches and play through a little bit of pain, especially the magnitude of the game that’s coming up on Saturday,” said Gerrard.
“We are going to have 50,000 people here roaring us on so I need to know who’s on board and who’s not. If you’re not, fair enough. I understand, I’ll respect the decision, but I need to know who’s with me and who’s not.
“I’ve just said to the players, ‘We’ve got two options here. We can feel sorry for ourselves and mope round and sit in silence – or we can regroup and pull ourselves together for 90 minutes of football coming up’.
“It’s a huge game and I need to know in the next 24 hours who’s in and who’s not. There are five or six with ice on, I haven’t really had time to analyse them all individually.
“There are no definite ‘ins’ at the moment. Some people trained today and were OK. But there is still more checking to be done on Scott Arfield and Gareth McAuley. Sometimes you have to dig deep into the reserves and play through it. If the injury doesn’t let you do that, tell me. Look me in the eye and say ‘I can’t do it’. Then we’ll go with what we’ve got.”
Gerrard saw Rangers again pay the price for their lack of a finishing touch during dominant periods of play as Darren McGregor’s 86th minute header secured a point for Hibs after Alfredo Morelos had opened the scoring with his 20th goal of the season,
“Our creation was there today,” added Gerrard. “We created enough to win the game. But in terms of the execution, of course it’s something I’m going to address in the coming months.
“But I can’t really address it that much before the next game unless people who were missing today declare themselves fit. I’m hoping a couple can pull through and we can maybe look a little stronger on paper than we did today.”
Asked if victory on Saturday is now a greater imperative for Rangers if they are to sustain a title challenge, Gerrard replied: “I’ve never, ever played in a derby that hasn’t been must-win. If we were sitting above Celtic right now, I’d be saying it’s must-win.
“So every game against Celtic is must-win. No-one should really ever ask a Rangers manager if an Old Firm game is must-win because you are only going to get one answer.”
Neil Lennon, who remains unbeaten against Rangers at Ibrox as Hibs manager, was gratified by a result which lifts the mood among his squad ahead of Saturday’s Edinburgh derby at Easter Road.
“It would be a confidence booster at any time,” said Lennon. “To come to Ibrox, when Rangers are in a title race, and take a point off them is important. We showed a lot of belief, scored a great goal with genuine quality about it.
“I’ve got a lot of injuries - we’ve lost Lewis Stevenson today for I don’t know how long - but I’m really proud of how my players stood up to an immense challenge and came through it with flying colours.”