Rangers manager Steven Gerrard urged his club’s supporters to hold their nerve after a low-key 1-0 win over St Mirren last night produced anxiety from the stands as his team struggled to put the encounter out of sight.
A 33rd minute Jermain Defoe opportunist strike claimed all three points and Gerrard cautioned that the club faithful should prepare themselves for such tight encounters against obdurate opponents at Ibrox as they look to maintain their title challenge to Celtic. In achieving the aim of remaining two points behind the Scottish champions despite having played a game fewer, the Rangers manager declared himself “delighted with outcome and result” even as he accepted his team failed to scale the heights.
"It gets us closer to where we want to be, six wins on the spin [in all competitions] and 21 games since a real [domestic] setback,” he said. "So I’m positive, I’m happy. I understand some of the frustration around the fans, and the players, not scoring three or four. Over the course of the season it’s not going to be perfect in every game. We are still trying to find top gear.
"The fans are entitled to moan and groan if they want, if they’re not seeing what they expect. I’m not sitting here saying we were outstanding, everything is flying and we were brilliant. But we’re winning. Doing whatever it takes to win games. There will be nights when we’re better, when we score more goals.
"But I’m not sitting here with any negativity.
“It's a win, a clean sheet, and defensively we were very sound. Could have killed the game off but it wasn’t to be. We expected St Mirren to come with that formation, to try to stay in the game as long as they could. Very well drilled. We always knew, if the scoreline wasn’t out of reach, they would show more ambition late on. It left gaps we maybe should have capitalised on. But we’ll take the win and move on."
Gerrard accepted that Rangers missed Alfredo Morelos who was suspended as the result of his red card in the win at Celtic Park before the shut-down, but pointed to the contribution of Defoe, who followed up his penalty strike in Friday’s Scottish Cup win over Stranraer with a sharp finish.
"I’ve said it before that when Alfredo isn’t available, we’re going to miss him,” Gerrard said. “But Jermain has been big for us. Two starts on the spin and two goals. He is a predator in the box. He could have killed the game off for us at the end, too, and was still hungry in the 90th minute. He’s as hungry now [at 37] as he was when he was 17.
“But yes we need Alfredo back, as well. And [injured] James Tavernier as well, he provides an attacking outlet on the right. Greg Stewart is another big miss [with injury], he can break the block.”