Rangers’ title aspirations took a potentially terminal blow on Wednesday evening as they suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Kilmarnock and The Athletic’s Jordan Campbell found one aspect of the result particularly alarming.
The Gers simply haven’t been at it since they recorded a game changing 2-1 victory in the Old Firm derby prior to the turn of the year.
Just a few weeks ago it seemed that the title race was set to be intensely fought during the final months of the season, but now it appears Celtic are set to coast to their ninth straight SPFL title.
Defeat at Rugby Park was Rangers’ second since they returned from the winter break as Eamonn Brophy’s late winner underlined the frailties that are underpinning the club’s bid to end the Hoops’ supremacy.
The turn of events which led to Brophy’s goal bore stark resemblance to the defeat against Hearts at Tynecastle just over two weeks ago, and Campbell alluded to the predictability of the eventual defeat in his post-match Q&A column, per The Athletic.
“Kilmarnock’s equaliser was coming as Rangers dropped deeper and deeper. When that went in I had little belief that they’d be able to rescue the win. Will be interesting to hear what Gerrard has to say. You could have written the script and that is the most worrying thing.”
Rangers pushed for a winner in the final stages, and were unjustly denied one when Alfredo Morelos was penalised for a foul before nodding the ball into the net, but lacked a distinct cutting edge.
Though the hosts seldom threatened Alan McGregor’s goal, the manner in which they were allowed to restore parity on the night exposed the flaws in Gerrard’s defensive unit, and it was impossible to escape the feeling that they would get once big chance to steal the three points on the breakaway; whether they would take it was another story.
As Campbell suggests, there has been a certain expectancy for Rangers to slip up since they returned from Dubai and that is ultimately the biggest problem holding the club back right now.
A blend of footballing and psychological factors are clearly disrupting their progress, and Gerrard’s own admission that his players “couldn’t handle the pressure” of the occasion suggests they are becoming the architects of their own painfully predictable downfall.
The feeling of inevitable capitulation expressed by Campbell is an ominous sign for Scotland’s historic giant and that will need to be eradicated if the club are to usurp Celtic.