Steven Gerrard has accepted full responsibility for Rangers’ damaging slump in form after admitting his players wilted under the title race pressure in their 2-1 defeat to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
A sloppy second half display from Gerrard’s side, who led 1-0 at half-time through Scott Arfield, saw them fall 10 points behind Celtic at the top of the Premiership as goals from Stephen O’Donnell and Eamonn Brophy earned Killie a stunning win.
Rangers have struggled badly since the winter break and have now dropped eight points in their last six league games, forcing Gerrard to concede that Celtic are now firm favourites for a ninth title in a row.
“The reality is the opposition are in the driving seat,” said Gerrard. “That’s down to two things - their form and us not being good enough since the winter break.
“But I’m responsible for that. I put this group together. I coach them, they are my tactics and decisions. So I’m not going to sit here and try and force any blame in any other direction than myself.
“It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating at the moment. We keep going,we keep fighting and see where we are. But on the evidence of the second half tonight, it’s very worrying for me right now.
“In the second half, we never handled the heat or the pressure. We never played like a team that was trying to fight to remain in a title race, a team that was trying to come away from here with three points.
“Do we need a stronger mentality? On the evidence of tonight, yes. On the evidence since the winter break, for sure. It’s tough to find that mentality.
“I had every belief and confidence, when I reflected on the first six months of the season, that I had enough to put at least a stronger fight up at this stage. But at the moment it’s looking extremely tough.”
Kilmarnock manager Alex Dyer savoured a victory which strengthens his team’s bid for a top six place.
“It was a great night for the football club,” said Dyer. “It was a terrific finish from Eammon at the end and a great result for us.
“I thought we would get chances as the game wore on. We contained them to a to a degree but showed them too much respect in the first half.
“After the break was much more like us and we were confident of causing them problems. I sensed a vulnerability in them a little bit as we asked questions of them.”