Steven Gerrard: Rangers matchwinners ‘didn’t turn up’

Joe Aribo not risked on plastic pitch but may return next week

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard shows his frustration. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

Steven Gerrard admitted his key attacking players “didn’t turn up” as Rangers dropped their first points of the Premiership campaign in a 0-0 draw at Livingston.

Gerrard insisted the result is not a cause for significant alarm and that it would be wrong to draw any telling comparison between Rangers’ blunt display and the form which saw them fall so badly off the title pace in the second half of last season.

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The Ibrox side went back to the top of the Premiership table, ahead of Hibs on goal difference, but missed the chance to maximise the gap between themselves and Celtic while the Scottish champions are inactive due to Boli Boingoli’s breach of Covid-19 guidelines.

“I’m frustrated that we haven’t taken maximum points,” said the Rangers manager.

“I don’t think we’ve done an awful lot wrong, except not been able to find that moment of magic or quality in the final third.

“From a defensive point of view, our goalkeeper is untroubled. We’ve dominated the ball and possession, we’ve done all the dirty work really well.

“We’ve got into some really good areas for all of the game – but we haven’t been able to find the breakthrough.

“We started with a lot of good players on the pitch, we’ve added a lot of good players to it but we just couldn’t find the answer in the final third. We knew Livi would have a lot of men behind the ball, we knew they’d be well organised, we knew they’d try to waste time. We knew they’d try to hide the ball from the side of the pitch.

“That’s what teams try and do. We have to accept that and try to be better.

“We’ve only got ourselves to blame in terms of the missed opportunity today.

“A lot of players did their jobs today and did really well. Our matchwinners haven’t turned up today.

“At times (it felt) similar (to last season), but it feels different now,” added Gerrard. “It feels like we have got more options. It feels like we have better quality.

“But some of the quality has only just arrived. We need to keep working, getting better and improving.

“I’m not one who really looks back. But this result isn’t helpful for us. We wanted to build on our good start to the season.

“We’ve had a lot of praise for that. I’m sure people will point fingers now and say we didn’t have enough to break Livingston down. We have to accept that.”

Rangers were without Joe Aribo, outstanding in their pre-season and early domestic fixtures, as the Nigerian playmaker nurses an ankle injury.

“I’m hoping to have him back for next weekend,” added Gerrard. “He’s got a small ankle problem that we scanned. There’s a bit of swelling in there, which is obviously a big risk coming to a surface like Livingston’s.

“We made the sensible call but I think we certainly missed Joe today as he’s obviously a game changer in the final third.

“Listen, it’s a frustrating one from our point of view. But I said before the game that it’s important to focus on us and our results. It’s Rangers who have missed the opportunity today.

“We just couldn’t find the breakthrough and didn’t have enough quality in the final third.

“We have told the players to remain calm. More often than not they get a lot of praise and credit for winning us games of football but that’s the reason why we brought them to Rangers – for games like this, when it’s tight and you are looking for that moment.

“We’ll keep working hard. We’ve got a full week leading into the next game when we’ll face a similar challenge and an organised team in Kilmarnock.

“But we need to work harder on our relationships and quality in the final third. Because we got into the final third an awful lot today. We never tested the keeper enough in the first 45 and it was a bit of too little, too late. We only pushed and looked like we were going to score for real in the final 15 or 20 minutes. That’s not enough.”

Gerrard, meanwhile, confirmed that Hibs target Ross McCrorie is on the verge of leaving Rangers, along with midfielder Greg Docherty who is in talks with Hull City.

“We are waiting for Greg to make a decision,” said Gerrard. “Hull are at the table with a good deal and opportunity for him. It’s not going to work for Greg at Rangers so we are waiting on his decision.

“Ross is close. He has a couple of options on the table. Again, we are waiting for a decision really.”

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