Misfiring Rangers can ‘forget about titles’ says Wes Foderingham

There were so many similarities about the games Rangers and Celtic played out at the weekend. And one crucial difference, of course.

St Johnstone's Joe Shaughnessy goes down under a challenge from Jermain Defoe
St Johnstone's Joe Shaughnessy goes down under a challenge from Jermain Defoe

The Ibrox men’s meandering efforts at home to St Johnstone on Saturday have ended any realistic prospect of ending their city rivals’ bid for an eighth straight title. That is so because, when Brendan Rodgers’ side found themselves ranged away to a Kilmarnock as impressively stoic and secure as the Perth side proved at Ibrox, they ultimately found a way to win.

That fine line allowed them to establish what is surely an unbridgeable eight-point advantage with only 12 Premiership games remaining.

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Steven Gerrard’s castigating of his side for never looking like they would unpick their opponents’ defences seemed almost a recognition that the jig was up for his team in their attempt to produce a sustained challenge for the league.

The former Liverpool captain produced an arresting comment in seething that his team could “forget titles and closing the gap” on the basis of a rudderless, toothless display which comprehensively betrayed their unhealthy dependence on the loose cannon but goal-blitzing suspended Alfredo Morelos.

Yet, it was no more arresting than Wes Foderingham’s verdict on Rangers since the winter break. The keeper deputised for the suspended Allan McGregor, and produced an acrobatic block to a powerful Joe Shaughnessy header to limit the damage to the Ibrox club’s season. A campaign that will hit the buffers if they do not prevail against Kilmarnock in the club’s Scottish Cup fifth round replay in Govan on Wednesday night.

It was put to the English keeper that Saturday seemed a mighty comedown when the thrilling 4-2 win away to Aberdeen was still fresh in the memory.

“I don’t think we have played well enough in recent games, to be honest,” he said. “At Pittodrie, we performed well, but apart from that, since coming back from the break, we have been off it a little bit. We have just been grinding out results. Today, we couldn’t get the win and the performance wasn’t there. Wednesday night is a big game so we need to make sure that we perform a lot better than we did today. It’s a must-win.”

Jermain Defoe and Steven Davis arrived in January as top level operators capable of taking Rangers up a notch. Instead, when Gerrard has really needed them to give him a turn – in the loss at Kilmarnock last month and, with Morelos banned and Scott Arfield and Ryan Jack injured, on Saturday – they have failed.

Foderingham knows all about the difficulties of having to step up following a period of inactivity. St Johnstone was his first league appearance in five months, and only his fifth outing of the season. Yet, the 28-year-old did step up. As have players that Gerrard has essentially inherited in Morelos, Arfield and Jack who have become performers Rangers are diminished without.

But the keeper denied that Rangers have become overly-reliant on the 23-year-old Colombian and expressed sympathy for the predicament of Defoe and Davis.

“I wouldn’t say we are too reliant on him [Morelos],” said Foderingham. “He’s a top, top player. Anybody is going to miss a player of his quality. When he’s in the side, he’s scoring, and he’s just a fantastic footballer, so obviously he’s going to improve what we are doing.

“But I thought we had decent enough cover to put on a lot better performance. We didn’t do ourselves justice. Sometimes it’s difficult if you have not played for a while and you have limited minutes and you are trying to put on a decent performance. But across the board, the whole team just weren’t good enough.”