James Tavernier comments after Rangers' win at Pittodrie show why there will be no let-up in title charge
Throw in the fact that Sunday’s 2-1 success made it 15 Premiership wins in a row to strengthen their commanding lead at the top of the table and you would expect it to be smiles all round in the Rangers camp.
Yet not only did manager Gerrard bemoan his team becoming ‘sloppy’ from the point of the game when they led 2-0, his captain James Tavernier has also used phrases such as ‘disappointed’ and ‘we have to do better’ in his own analysis of the contest.
Staving off complacency
It was an afternoon which showed that the only remaining threat to Rangers’ prospects of landing their much-coveted 55th league title this season can come from them allowing complacency to creep into their play.
Tavernier’s dismayed reaction to the fact Aberdeen substitute Matty Kennedy managed to place the result in doubt when he took advantage of some lax defending to score for the short-handed hosts suggests Rangers are well primed to avoid it becoming a bigger issue in the coming weeks.
Much has been made about the improved mentality of Gerrard’s squad this season, one infused with greater resolve and staying power than in the previous two campaigns when their title bids fell off a cliff after the turn of the year.
Tavernier, whose own leadership credentials have been questioned in the past, has made it clear Rangers will seek to eradicate any potential vulnerability on that front. This time, there is unlikely to be any let-up in their currently relentless progress towards the finishing line.
“We knew with Aberdeen being down to 10 men that their chances would be limited but we have got to deal with the situation a lot better,” said Tavernier as he dissected what was only the fifth goal Rangers have conceded in 23 Premiership games.
“These are the standards that we have set ourselves throughout the season. We are delighted to come up here and get three points, we know it is a tough place to come.
“We are disappointed to have conceded but overall we got the job done and now we move on to Motherwell next week.”
A rare penalty miss
Tavernier’s somewhat downbeat reaction was perhaps influenced by his own personal disappointment during the match when he drove his penalty kick wide of Joe Lewis’ left hand post after Ryan Hedges had been sent off for clipping the heels of Alfredo Morelos.
It was Tavernier’s first failure to score from the spot since October 2019, ending a run of nine successful conversions this season.
Unlike last season, when three misses in five attempts during a spell of poor personal form saw him temporarily relieved of spot-kick duties, there is no question of Tavernier either stepping aside or being asked to do so this time.
“I’m disappointed that I've put the penalty wide, I have sent him (Lewis) the wrong way as well so I'm more disappointed with that,” he told Rangers TV.
“I have got to keep working hard on them and keep practising them but you can't let it affect you in a game like this or in any game, so you have just got to pick your head up and we carried on and got the job done.”
Morelos is back
If there was one aspect of Rangers’ performance against Aberdeen that no-one connected with the club could find fault with, it was the welcome return to optimum form and deadliness in front of goal from Morelos.
The Colombian striker’s double suggests he may be poised to embark on the kind of prolific streak which, in tandem with Rangers’ other attacking threats from middle to front, could see Gerrard’s men continue to leave their would-be challengers trailing in their wake.
“Alfredo's starting to get his goals back and he has been working extremely hard on the training pitch and even during games when he's not been scoring,” observed Tavernier. “He has been working hard for the team so I am delighted to see him get two goals today.
“I thought Ryan Kent was tremendous, he was always a threat. I could say that about all the boys, Ianis Hagi as well. There were threats all over the place and we are probably slightly disappointed that we didn't get more goals but, like I said, it’s three points and we move on.”
As the coronavirus crisis continues apace, Rangers will hope they can minimise its impact upon them which, so far, has been restricted to a period in self-isolation for defender Filip Helander after a positive test, self-isolation for young full-back Nathan Patterson as a close contact of others during Scotland under-21 duty, and the seven-match suspensions imposed on George Edmundson and Jordan Jones for breaching protocols with their attendance at a party.
“Football is a massive part of a lot of people's lives and we are trying to do the best that we can as a club to nullify any cases coming into the building so we can perform for the fans and give them enjoyment,” said Tavernier.
“It is obviously a really hard time at the minute with all the cases and the people that are passing away but we have to really be disciplined as a club and give the fans what they want and try to entertain them.”
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