Rangers manager Graeme Murty has revealed he will force his buoyant players to review their failings in the Scottish Cup victory over Falkirk before he allows them to fully switch their focus to Sunday’s keenly-anticipated Old Firm showdown at Ibrox.
Murty has no desire to dampen the growing enthusiasm or confidence of his revitalised squad as they bid to secure a first league victory over Celtic for six years this weekend.
But he is keen to make them fully aware of the improvements they will need to make after the 4-1 cup win over Championship side rivals which left him with mixed feelings about their performance.
“We’ll look ahead to Celtic at the end of the week but first of all we need to debrief the Falkirk game because there were certain aspects I wasn’t very happy with,” said Murty. “I think the squad are the same.
“We got through without really hitting the heights we are capable of. It was a frustrating day for me, I thought we were a little bit off, a little bit sloppy at times, possibly a little self-indulgent and slow.”
Murty does accept he can take positives from Rangers winning as comfortably as they did on Sunday, with a hat-trick by Jason Cummings hogging the headlines, while not reaching the overall levels he demands.
“That alludes to the threat we carry. We have players able to go and create chances,” Murty told Rangers TV. “We have willing runners and we have some strike force now to go and challenge for places.
“But we can still be better in so many different aspects of the game, particularly our pressing and organisation. We were so sloppy off the ball at times.”
Murty is looking to arrange a friendly at the Rangers training ground this midweek as he assesses his selection options ahead of a pivotal Premiership fixture which offers his team the chance to cut the gap on leaders Celtic at the top of the table to three points, with Brendan Rodgers’ side having played one game fewer.
The fitness of Jamie Murphy, who missed out against Falkirk because of a toe injury suffered against St Johnstone last Tuesday, will be closely monitored. Club captain Lee Wallace, sidelined since September, could feature in the bounce game.
“Some people are going to rest and relax, some people are going to get numerous massages and down days,” added Murty.
“But some people need to get minutes in. So we are going to try to get a closed-door game so people are sharp enough if they need to be called upon.
“We need to also take the positive atmosphere running through the squad and enhance it before the weekend because it’s going to be something special, hopefully.”
Welsh international Declan John had made the left-back position at Rangers his own in Wallace’s absence but has missed the last two games with a groin injury. Murty has praised the contribution of midfielder Andy Halliday, who has stood in at left-back in those matches, but could have John available once more for the visit of Celtic.
“Declan John is really close, he is hopefully going to do a bit of ball work today and we are hopeful for the weekend but nothing is confirmed as yet,” said Murty. “Yes, I am hopeful of having a fit left-back for Sunday.
“He [John] was a miss, I thought, but the opportunity for Andy Halliday to come into the team, in a position that is not his own, is something he took with both hands in the two games he has played.
“I have been really impressed with his attitude and he hasn’t let anyone down at all. I would really like to praise his professionalism since he has come back and he is someone that we brought back into the group to try to push and culture up, to try to make sure people understand what it means to represent Rangers at the highest level.
“He understands that and he wants the standards within the group to be at the highest and that is something he deserves credit for.”