Rangers manager Steven Gerrard admitted he dipped into the Sir Alex Ferguson playbook as his “hairdryer treatment” of his players sparked a second-half comeback in Perth to maintain their title challenge.
Gerrard was left dismayed by a dismal first-half display which saw Rangers trail 1-0 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park. He pulled no punches in a frank dressing-room assessment during the interval and was gratified by a response which saw Alfredo Morelos score twice to secure a victory which moves Rangers to a point behind Premiership leaders Celtic who have a game in hand.
“There was no hairdryer in there,” said Gerrard. “But, if there was one… I’m not trying to be sarcastic. I’m just saying that, if there was a hairdryer in there, it would have been used!
“The first half wasn’t good enough, all over the pitch. No-one did the shirt justice, no-one looked like a Rangers player to me. I had to have the honest conversation with them at half-time. I had to tell them what all the fans thought of them, because you could hear the reaction at half-time. It’s my job to let them know what the fans think, it’s my job to demand more of them. That’s what we did and we got a major reaction in the second half. Every single player, to a man, stood up and was counted in the second half. That helped flip the game.
“But you saw the two sides of us today. You saw a team which was second best all over the pitch in the first half and made hard work of it. In the second half, you saw a quality team that looks as if it’s capable of being at the top of the table.
“I shouldn’t have to be looking at every player eye to eye at half-time and demanding a reaction. That shouldn’t be the case if you’re a Rangers player. That should come naturally.”
Gerrard is seeking sustained improvement from his team in their two remaining league games before the winter break against Hibs and Celtic at Ibrox over the next week.
“We need a 90-minute performance for the next two games now,” he added. “That’s an understatement. I need to see the performance from the second half today for the whole of the next two games.”
Rangers were again indebted to the scoring prowess of Morelos who has already surpassed his tally of 18 goals from last season.
“That’s 19 goals for the season for Alfredo now which is a stunning return and, if we keep providing chances and getting the ball into those areas, I’m sure he will get into the 20s before the break,” said Gerrard. “He is a top class finisher. The second one was magnificent. For the first one, he was in the right place at the right time.”
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright felt a point was the least his team would have deserved from the match after taking the lead through Matty Kennedy.
“I take huge pride in how we played and huge disappointment we didn’t get something from the game,” said Wright. “It was as well as we have played all season. If we play like that every week, we’ll pick up more points than we lose. We defended well for most of the game and were a real threat.
“We had a great chance to go 2-1 up ourselves, then Rangers went straight up the pitch and got the winner. Ultimately, we didn’t defend two crosses into the box which has cost us.”