Two wins to go top is a ‘lovely thought’ says Steven Gerrard

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For Rangers supporters, the situation could not be any clearer. Win their final two games of 2018 (at home to Hibernian today and against Celtic at Ibrox on Saturday) and they will be guaranteed to begin the New Year in pole position in the Premiership.

For manager Steven Gerrard, however, there will be no counting of chickens – or, if you prefer, turkeys.

Kyle Lafferty's recent form has impressed manager Steven Gerrard. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

Kyle Lafferty's recent form has impressed manager Steven Gerrard. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

“It is a lovely thought but there is a lot of hard work and big individual and collective performances needed to achieve it,” he said.

“For us right now we focus on Hibernian. We had a tough game against them [in the 0-0 draw at Easter Road] last week but performed very well. That’s the level of performance I’ll be looking for at Ibrox.

“We need to do everything we can to get three points and that will set us up for a wonderful game with which to finish off the first half of the season. It’s two tough games, six big points available and we need to give our all.”

Consequently, Gerrard refuses to discuss the derby this weekend, insisting that his players are concentrating solely on their meeting with Neil Lennon’s side this 
afternoon.

“We need to keep 100 per cent focused on Hibs,” he said. “It would be very naïve of us to think about the Old Firm game right now. We know Neil will be desperate to come here and get a result.

“Hibs are a good team and I believe they are in a false position in the league. They have wonderful technicians within the group who can hurt you – your Stephen Mallans and your Emerson Hyndmans.

“They have mobility up front so we know they carry a threat. We know they are a good team. Our respect for Hibs is clear and our players should know they can’t be naïve and think about the Old Firm or we won’t get out of it what we need.”

Gerrard also highlighted the contribution made by Kyle Lafferty in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over St Johnstone in Perth. The summer signing from Hearts came off the bench and his physical presence unsettled the home defence; now Gerrard anticipates similar showings from the 31-year-old in the months to come.

“That’s the reason we brought him in,” he said. “In the first four to six weeks he looked like the real Kyle Lafferty. He was all over the place, pressing people, being aggressive and holding it up.

“He got his goals, whether that be from the beginning or from the bench. He then had a bit of a dip and had a few issues he had to deal with. Now he seems back and focused and ready to contribute again.

“I thought he was outstanding on Sunday and did everything but score. He was unlucky not to get a few goals against Hamilton as well.

“As soon as he gets that next one, a few more will come. And I’m hoping it will be in the next few fixtures.” 
Central defender Connor Goldson was in no doubt about the significance of Sunday’s success at McDiarmid Park and how pivotal that revival may prove to be.

“It could be a massive win,” he said. “We knew we needed it gong into the game. The winning goal changes the complexion of the whole week. If we’d only got the first goal and drew, the whole dynamic changes.

“There’s pressure from the outside and the fans aren’t happy as we’d have dropped two points away from home but that late goal changes 
everything and everyone is happy.

“We go into two big games now and the whole place has had a lift.”

The former Brighton and Hove Albion centre-back admits it took him time to adapt to the mindset at Ibrox, where every draw merits an inquest and every defeat is a 
crisis.

“I think when you first come here you don’t realise that, as soon as you drop any points, it’s a disaster,” he said.

“At the same time I think the fans realise when you have played well and when you haven’t. Against Hibs last week it was a good team performance. You hear them at the end of the game. They were clapping and are happy.

“Yesterday, midway through the St Johnstone game, you can hear them and you know your’e not playing well. You know as a team you need to pick yourselves up and need to do something.

“On Sunday we found another gear and by the end of the game they were happy again.”