On Saturday, Rangers could and probably should have gone 12 points clear of Celtic, but instead conspired to draw 1-1 at Ibrox against St Mirren.
That isn’t to do St Mirren any disservice, as I was very impressed by the Paisley side’s commitment to playing a passing game. Players like Kenny McLean and Paul McGowan have great technical ability and could lead Danny Lennon’s side to the top 6.
However, Rangers should be beating teams like St Mirren at home comfortably. With Celtic dropping yet more points in the lunchtime kick-off at Rugby Park against Kilmarnock, Rangers had the chance to stretch their lead further ahead of the Parkhead side.
Once again, Rangers struggled to get into any sort of rhythm for long spells of the game. Whilst some of the play was neat and tidy, much of it was sloppy with many passes and moves breaking down.
But with Nikica Jelavic’s goal after 48 minutes finally breaking the deadlock, the longer the game stayed at 1-0, Rangers looked to be on their way to a 10th SPL win in a row. St Mirren striker Steven Thompson had other ideas.
Deep into injury time, Thompson collected David Van Zanten’s cross and put the ball past Allan McGregor in the Rangers goal. To be honest, it was deserved, but Rangers had finally been punished by a team for the lack of composure in front of goal.
Despite having a 7 point lead over Motherwell and a 10 point lead over Celtic, by slipping up on Saturday, Rangers have presented themselves with a problem ahead of two very tough away games in the next fortnight at Tynecastle and Pittodrie.
First up are Hearts next Sunday lunchtime in Edinburgh. Visits to face Hearts always fill me with nerves, as for me there is no better atmosphere in the SPL when Tynecastle is rocking.
Rangers recent record there is certainly a lot better in comparison to Celtic’s, but Paulo Sergio really has got his side motoring now and they have only conceded one home league goal this season.
And let’s not forget under Jim Jeffries management, they came to Ibrox on the opening day of the season and left with a 1-1 draw. Players like Rudi Skacel, David Templeton and Ryan Stevenson are in great form up front whilst Andy Webster and Marius Zaliukas are providing great solidity at the back.
Rangers will need to play much better and players such as Steven Naismith, Nikica Jelavic and Kyle Lafferty will need to be more ruthless in front of goal, or the 11 game unbeaten run could go.
The following Saturday another massive game awaits Rangers when they take on Aberdeen at Pittodrie. I don’t wish to delve too much into the whole rivalry and ‘conspiracy theories’ that surround this game each year, but what cannot be denied is the fact Aberdeen fans get fired up for this game more than any other.
The hatred and the vile that is spouted during this game (admittedly from both fans) provides for some spectacle and one hell of a tough game for Rangers.
Until last season, when they managed to win twice at Pittodrie, Rangers hadn’t won against Aberdeen in Walter Smith’s second reign.
And last September they were 2-0 down within half an hour, before staging a great fightback. In April, a 1-0 victory was secured thanks to a piece of magic from Jelavic.
Although Aberdeen have been in poor form, they have picked up two impressive successive home victories against Dunfermline and Dundee United and when Rangers come to the Granite City, there is no doubt in my mind Craig Brown’s players will be poised and ready for battle.
By conceding late to St Mirren on Saturday, Ally McCoist’s men have put themselves under necessary pressure. But get through two testing trips and they will be in a very strong position going into November.