Rangers ‘should forget title race talk until Christmas’

Niko Kranjcar during yesterday's win against Partick Thistle. Picture: PA
Niko Kranjcar during yesterday's win against Partick Thistle. Picture: PA
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Niko Kranjcar reckons Rangers should put thoughts of a title challenge to the back of their minds until Christmas.

Gers avoided registering their worst start to a league campaign since 1989 with Saturday’s 2-0 win over Partick Thistle.

The victory - just their third of the Ladbrokes Premiership campaign so far - moves the Light Blues up to fifth but they remain seven points adrift of rampant leaders Celtic, who have a game in hand.

Mark Warburton’s Ibrox side were expected to mount a stiff challenge to Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops on their return to the top flight but now Croatian playmaker Kranjcar says his side should put that matter on the back-burner for the next few months.

The former Tottenham and QPR midfielder - Gers’ stand-out performer against Thistle - said: “I think at the moment we shouldn’t think about it. I think we should think about winning the next game.

“It is not in our hands in respect of the points we’ve dropped already. I think we learned that the most important game is the next one coming up.

“We can talk come Christmas where we are in the title race. The one thing that is important for us is to concentrate on ourselves and rising our level of football and hopefully winning the next game that comes our way.”

The Ibrox men were thrashed 5-1 by Celtic in last month’s Old Firm showdown and the teams will meet again on October 23 after being paired in the Betfred Cup semi-finals.

But Kranjcar is refusing to focus on a derby revenge mission until their next game against Inverness in a fortnight is addressed.

“We have a game before the Celtic match, which is points in the league,” he said. “We all enjoy playing the big games against Celtic but obviously we didn’t enjoy the last one. We are all looking forward to the next one but we are going to talk about that one we get Inverness away out of the way. We can talk about Celtic then.”

Kranjcar has struggled to reach peak fitness since returning to the UK this summer after a stint with New York Cosmos.

He gave flashes of his brilliant best against Thistle, scoring a sensational opener when he danced his way into the box after 33 minutes before crashing the ball into the roof of the net.

But he still had to make way with 18 minutes remaining as he ran out of steam.

However, the 32-year-old bristled at criticism of his conditioning as he insisted he is nearing his maximum.

Asked if he was close to full fitness, he said: “I hope so but I have felt really good for a long time.

“I have repeated it so many times - I am a footballer who when I don’t play well people say I don’t look fit.

“Then when I do play well people say I’m the fittest I’ve ever been.

“It’s something I’m used to, it doesn’t annoy me because I’ve had it since I was 17 years old. It’s part of my life.”

Meanwhile, Saturday’s defeat leaves Thistle rooted to the bottom of the table after six league games without a win.

Andy Halliday put the result beyond Alan Archibald’s team with Rangers’ second five minutes from half-time and striker Ade Azeez admitted Thistle did not recover from that bodyblow.

He said: “The first 30 minutes I felt our game plan worked to a T. We knew that we couldn’t stop them having possession, we knew they would have the ball.

“We were doing all the correct things but then a moment of individual brilliance [from Kranjcar] and they go one up. As a team that maybe knocked us a little bit.

“Their second goal came from a mistake and it maybe knocked us.

“Second half we came out okay but maybe not as well as we normally do. After a while they got comfortable and were knocking it side to side which made it hard for us.

“They are going to make gaps and they did.”

READ MORE - Five things we learned from the Scottish Premiership weekend

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