VICTORY at Ibrox secured a hat-trick of festive Old Firm wins for Steven Gerrard. Now he must avoid history repeating itself this season.

When Rangers have won the corresponding fixture in the two previous campaigns, they have failed to build on the momentum and seen title challenges quickly falter as the New Year unfolded.

This time it could be different, though, after a Callum McGregor own goal earned Rangers a win that moved them 19 points clear of Celtic in the Premiership title race.

Neil Lennon’s side do, of course, still have three games in hand but Rangers could now just be weeks away from ending a decade-long wait for their 55th league flag.


There was a narrative that Rangers were unlucky not to win the Betfred Cup final last season and that they didn’t get what they deserved as Celtic emerged as 1-0 winners.

But Gerrard’s side were punished for their mistakes on the day. Yes, the goal from Christopher Jullien was offside, but had Rangers been more clinical and done their job properly and efficiently then the cup would have been won with some ease.

The same has to be said of Celtic in the aftermath of this fixture. If you don’t take your chances while you are on top, you can have no complaints when you are left empty-handed.

Rangers survived an early storm as Allan McGregor made a series of terrific stops but the keeper was rarely worked thereafter and Celtic only have themselves to blame for not capitalising on their promising spell and seeing off a side that were there to be beaten.

The performance from Rangers certainly wasn’t at the level required or expected, but good teams find a way to win and they did just that.

The record books only show the outcome, not how the result was achieved and the losers, at Hampden and Ibrox, only have themselves to blame.


That particular message has been emphasised repeatedly throughout the course of the season and the mantra won’t change now that the finishing line is in sight.

The biggest danger to Rangers now is complacency. If they think the job is done and don’t approach the remaining 16 fixtures with the focus that they have done during a 22-game unbeaten Premiership run, then they will come unstuck and the momentum could shift.

Rangers should go on and win the title from this position. But a collapse now would the worst of the three under Gerrard’s guidance the Ibrox boss has to guard against any self-inflicted damage to their cause.


There has been a different feeling around this squad since the start of the season and that noticeable drive and determination is now paying off for Gerrard’s side.

For the first time in a long time, they have the ability to grind out wins, like they did against Hibernian, or emerge victorious in adversity, such as coming from behind to beat Motherwell on the back of their Betfred Cup defeat to St Mirren.

Saturday was further proof of a side that now know how to win in different ways. They might not have been at their best, but teams that clinch titles don’t do it by playing at their highest level week after week.

The mentality of Gerrard’s side has been questioned so often in the last couple of years. Those doubts are now being answered emphatically on a regular basis.


At 38, it is clear that McGregor’s best days are behind him at Ibrox, but Saturday showed that he is still the best keeper in the country by some considerable distance.

His Man of the Match showing – and the sublime save from Leigh Griffiths in particular – highlighted his importance to Rangers once again. On the big stage, McGregor produces big moments and big performances.

Gerrard has been hesitant on the topic of McGregor’s future at Ibrox and his contract will expire at the end of the season. Given his influence on and off the park, it is a no-brainer for Rangers to look to extend that if the keeper wishes.

McGregor may think it is time to go out on a high if he can win the title this term but he still has so much to offer and so many years left in him at the top level.


The first half performance was so out of character for Rangers as they struggled to find their rhythm off the ball and their range with it. As Celtic pressed well, Gerrard’s side just couldn’t get going and had no control over the play for large spells.

Steven Davis and Glen Kamara couldn’t exert their usual levels of influence, while Joe Aribo didn’t get the time on the ball that he needs to operate and it is rare to see Rangers so out of sorts and second best in the midfield battle.

The absences of Scott Arfield and Ryan Jack were noticeable. Without their tenacity in the tackle and relentless running, Rangers really toiled at times.

Davis and Kamara did grow into it as the game went on but Rangers will need to learn to live without two key operators in the middle of the park.