Rangers failed to get the win that they needed to reach the knockout stages of the Europa League as they were beaten 1-0 by Rapid Vienna in Austria on Thursday night, but manager Steven Gerrard can take at least one crumb of comfort from the disappointment.
While many first-team players such as James Tavernier and Alfredo Morelos have established themselves in their respective positions in the starting XI, the 38-year-old boss has largely chopped and changed at the heart of his defence – not helped by injury issues, certainly.
Towards the start of the season it seemed as though Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic would be the preferred partnership, but then Joe Worrall struck up a good relationship with the former following his loan switch from Nottingham Forest.
Gerrard boosted his central defensive options even further by signing free agent Gareth McAuley at the beginning of September, but he has found consistent starts hard to come by as he gets up to speed having not really had an intensive pre-season.
A few weeks ago many would have argued that Goldson and Worrall looked to the strongest combination, but that has very much changed in recent matches.
While the Forest loanee’s performances have dropped considerably, McAuley’s have got stronger as he gets more minutes on the pitch, and he put in an admirable display once again against Rapid Vienna on Thursday.
With his defensive nous, leadership and experience alongside the talented Goldson, Gerrard looks to finally have found the settled centre-back pairing that he has been desperately searching for, as the Gers look to recover from some poor Scottish Premiership form to maintain their title push alongside arch-rivals Celtic.