'We shall not be moved': Rangers hit the front in title race as fans send pointed message to Celtic

With 12 games left in chase for Premiership crown, Clement’s men hold two-point advantage after seeing off Saints

Advantage Rangers. For the first time in two years, the Ibrox club are in command of the Premiership title race, overtaking defending champions Celtic with a 3-0 victory over St Johnstone in Perth.

Capitalising fully on Celtic’s 1-1 draw at home to Kilmarnock on Saturday, Rangers notably opened up a two-point gap at the summit. When Michael Beale was sacked as manager back in September, Celtic led Rangers by seven points, but under the stewardship of the increasingly impressive Philippe Clement, they have chipped away at Celtic’s lead and preyed on their Old Firm rivals’ failings under Brendan Rodgers.

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While there will now be an understandable panic across the Glasgow divide, this feels like a title race with more twists to come. Neither Rangers or Celtic are especially swashbuckling and don’t blow teams away. But what is becoming apparent is that Rangers know how to churn out wins under the Belgian. Only Celtic have beaten them under his watch. This victory over St Johnstone was a fine example of such a trait. They have prevailed in all nine of their matches since losing the last derby at the end of 2023.

Rangers celebrate Mohamed Diomande's opener at McDiarmid Park.Rangers celebrate Mohamed Diomande's opener at McDiarmid Park.
Rangers celebrate Mohamed Diomande's opener at McDiarmid Park.

A win did not seem immediately obvious in sunny Perth against a limited St Johnstone team. A truly soporific first 35 minutes would be the perfect cure for insomnia as a sleepy McDiarmid Park bore witness to one of the poorest starts to a Premiership match this season on a bobbly, fiery pitch that did not help the 22 players on it. St Johnstone maintained their discipline until the 37th minute, when Ryan McGowan did not clear his lines properly at the edge of the box. Mohamed Diomande, who was a tidy and influential presence on his maiden league start, took aim and leathered the ball home from 20 yards. The Rangers fans behind the goal exploded. "We shall not be moved,” they sang.

Saints had proved toothless in attacking sense and Rangers emerged from the break looking for a killer second goal. Todd Cantwell, one of the better players on display before a hamstring complaint curtailed his involvement, saw a volley well saved by Dimitar Mitov on 47 minutes. Then substitute Dujon Sterling came close to glancing home a Cantwell cross. Fabio Silva, asked to lead the line ahead of Cyriel Dessers, showed some nice touches but did not bring a veritable goal threat was replaced by the Nigerian on 68 minutes.

Rangers’ clinching moment came on 78 minutes via the penalty spot. Sterling charged down a Graham Carey clearance and raced on to the loose ball in the box. Andy Considine came charging to tackle him but was too late, felling the winger. How referee Matthew MacDermid and his nearside assistant Ross MacLeod did not give it in real time, only they will know. This is why VAR is helpful, as obvious a penalty you will see all weekend. MacDermid was summoned to the touchline screen and did not take long to change his mind. James Tavernier stepped up and while Mitov guessed correctly, the spot-kick was impeccable.

A less obvious penalty followed on 87 minutes. Tom Lawrence’s shot struck the flailing, trailing arm of Luke Robinson and MacDermid once again visited the VAR monitor before pointing to the spot. Tavernier once again converted to score his 120th goal in Rangers colours.

A thunderous rendition of “we shall not be moved” ensued, followed by a pointed message to Celtic from the now jubilant Rangers fans. “We’re going to win the league,” they cried. With 12 games remaining, it’s now in their hands.