HIS dead ball ability and crossing prowess were responsible for the first two goals that Rangers scored in a 3-0 demolition of St Johnstone at Ibrox on Wednesday evening that edged them ahead of Hibernian at the top of the Premiership on goal difference.

Yet, the most satisfying aspect of both the performance and result in midweek for left back Borna Barisic was that Steven Gerrard’s men managed to keep another clean sheet.

The Glasgow club have now conceded just one goal in the eight games – four pre-season friendlies and four competitive fixtures - they have played since football restarted this summer.

That blot on an otherwise perfect record, too, came against Bundesliga opponents Bayer Leverkusen in their rearranged Europa League last 16 tie over in Germany.

The threat that Barisic poses in the final third, both in open play and at free-kicks, is renowned. But the Croatian internationalist takes just as much pride in his defensive duties as well. The way the backline has functioned since lockdown restrictions were eased, then, has pleased him greatly.

In the second half of last season Rangers gave away criminally soft goals to Hearts, St Johnstone, Kilmarnock and Hamilton and saw their title challenge wither and die as a result. So their new-found defensive solidity augurs well for the future.

The new league leaders face one of their toughest tests domestically of the 2020/21 campaign tomorrow afternoon when they travel to West Lothian to take on Livingston on their artificial pitch at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

They won both of their games at the difficult venue last term. But Gary Holt’s uncompromising side had the best home record in the league outwith the Old Firm clubs. They won eight, drew four and lost just two of their matches there.

Barisic, though, is determined to extend Rangers’ winning run, eager to maintain their advantage over Hibs, keen to extend their lead over Celtic even further and, perhaps most of all, desperate to ensure their goals against column in the table remains at zero.

“I am excited about keeping this run going,” he said. “It is very difficult to keep a clean sheet for three games, but it is part of the job you know. We have done very well not only defensively, but also when we attack. We have scored seven goals. I am very happy because of this.”

“I am very happy with a good start to the season for me but even happier because of the team and the clean sheets with nine points and three wins. I am very happy.

“We have confidence from the start to the season ,but also the hard work and 100 per cent focus we have put into everything since pre-season. We get more and more confidence every game and that is very good for the next part of the season and games.”

Rangers have won their last two games against St Mirren and St Johnstone at Ibrox by 3-0 scorelines with Jon McLaughlin deputising for the injured Allan McGregor in goals and new signing Leon Balogun starting at centre half. Barisic has been impressed with how the pair have settled in.

“Both of them have adapted very well,” he said. “When they play they look as if they have been here for one or two years. They are very good players, very good guys. But I don’t think they will have any problems adapting here because we are a very good squad.”

Barisic is no lover of astroturf surfaces and argues they have no place in the Premiership. But he accepts that, with Hamilton, Kilmarnock and Livingston all having them, Rangers have to deal with the challenges they present if they want to win the Scottish title this term. He is confident they will be able to.

“It is different of course,” he said. “I really don’t like the plastic pitch. For me, that is not for the first league teams.

“The situation is that we have three of them and we need to adapt. I have already played on them over the last two years and you have to play the games differently, but we are used to playing on them. We won’t have a problem with that.”

Barisic encounters few difficulties getting upfield and either setting up goals or scoring them himself. The man who has been linked with Premier League new boys Leeds United this summer stressed that his excellence going forward stems from long hours on the training ground at Auchenhowie.

Asked about the delivery that set up Ryan Kent for the second against St Johnstone, he said: “It’s easier because we’ve now played together for two years. But I work on that. Not only that, on every aspect of my football. It’s very important to work all the time.

“I practice a lot. I stay after almost every training session and practice. I practice and I am happy when I score. But I try to work on every area. I am always trying to improve in training every day.

“It starts from pre-season. I come in very good shape, the best in my life I think. In pre-season I work very hard and I will do that in the future for sure to help me personally and of course to try to help the team to keep winning.”