Lee Hodson is far too modest to regard himself as a key factor in Rangers’ back-to-back wins over Aberdeen and Hearts which have provided their Premiership campaign with much-needed momentum.
But the introduction of the Northern Ireland international at right-back has certainly lent Mark Warburton’s side greater defensive solidity and balance as they look for the kind of winning consistency which has so far eluded them on the club’s return to top-flight football.
Hodson has had to exercise patience in his bid for a regular place in the Rangers line-up following his summer move from MK Dons. If he retains it for tonight’s trip to Hamilton Accies, it will be the first time he has started three consecutive matches for the Ibrox men. That coincides with Rangers seeking to rack up three successive league victories for the first time this season and Hodson believes they are now finding the kind of form which opposition sides will find difficult to counter.
“Once you get that momentum, you become very hard to stop,” said the 25-year-old. “In our last two games, we’ve done really well. We have been dominating play and we need to carry that on into Friday night at Hamilton.
“I’m not sure if it has just suddenly clicked in the last couple of weeks, because we have been training well throughout the season. I know performances dipped at times along the way, but we knew it would all click eventually.
“With the confidence the lads have going into the Hamilton game, this could be a turning point in the season.
“We know what we want to do, whether it’s at Ibrox or away from home, and that is to go out there and play the Rangers way. That means getting at them from the first minute, getting an early goal and kicking on from there.
“Then we can look at keeping it going in the next match, against Inverness at Ibrox, which we’ve managed to turn into a fortress. Now, when other teams come to our place, they find it hard to get anything at all.
“We know the quality we have in this squad and that, sooner or later, the results would start coming. It starts by doing what we do well on the training ground and that will turn into the outcomes we want on the pitch.
“That’s been proved by the passion the lads have shown in the wins over Aberdeen and Hearts. It was all about character and we showed where we want to be. We want to be winning games week in and week out and we can do that by consistently playing at the level we’re capable of. Everyone knows that Rangers is a massive club and, as players, we have high expectations of ourselves. The fans expect us to win games and we’re disappointed when we don’t. But you know what you’re walking into when you sign for this club. I certainly did, but that can affect different players in different ways.”
Hodson’s eye-catching displays at right-back have suggested he is a better option in that position for Rangers than James Tavernier, whose defensive attributes have often been questioned.
Tavernier was moved into midfield against Hearts last week, a role many observers feel is better suited to his particular talents.
“James played very well in midfield,” added Hodson. “He’s a versatile player who can turn out on the right wing, midfield or full-back and not a lot of players can do that. He got on the ball against Hearts, dictated the play and created chances too. That puts a message in the gaffer’s mind, showing him he can play in that position as well and that’s down to the manager to decide where he wants to play him.
“I know James says he still sees himself as a right-back. That’s his natural position so it’s understandable he wants to play there. He is a top-quality full-back and so for me to stay in the team, I must keep performing at the highest level possible. If I dip below that, I’m sure James will be back in and vice versa.
“If I’m lucky enough to start at Accies, I know what I have to keep doing and that’s to continue to perform at the highest level I can.
“Coming to a new club, you’ve got to prove yourself and I came to Rangers knowing we had two top-quality full-backs in James and Lee Wallace who are the best in the league, so it would never be easy to come here and get a lot of game time.
“But I knew if I got my head down and worked hard, I would eventually get my chance from the manager. I knew I needed to take it when it came and to stay in the team I must keep performing to my highest level possible.
“Obviously the main thing right now is to win on Friday night. Even if I’m not in the team, the main thing is to win, whoever is in the starting 11. The aim is to go out and carry on the performance levels of the last few games, take the three points we need and then look to the next game against Inverness on Christmas Eve. Hopefully we can carry on that run.”
Rangers have taken a more direct approach during periods of recent matches and Hodson insists it effectively complements their more established passing game.
“Sometimes it’s not a bad ball – it’s a clipped pass, not just a punt upfield. Joe Garner is so good in the air that, when teams do try and press us, going long provides a solution to that. We’re a team that likes to play short but I think we’ve shown we can also go long to get out when we have to. That’s a great thing to have in your locker and it’s been effective in our last couple of games.”