NEIL LENNON insists Odsonne Edouard’s stoppage-time winner over Dundee yesterday would have been a massive psychological blow for Rangers.
The Frenchman’s second late points-clincher in three of the interim manager’s comeback games pushed the champions towards an advantage of TEN points at the top of the Premiership as they zero in on their EIGHTH successive crown.
Edouard worked the same magic in the 92nd minute against Hearts at Tynecastle only 24 hours after Lennon’s dramatic return following the swift exit of Brendan Rodgers for mid-table Leicester City.
And the former Paris Saint-Germain prospect staged an action replay on Tayside in the 96th minute to snatch a victory for the visitors when it looked as though the confrontation was limping towards a scoreless stalemate, the team’s second consecutive blankety-blank display following last week’s draw against Aberdeen at Parkhead.
It was Edouard’s 18th strike of the season and set up the team for the visit of Rangers to the east end of Glasgow in just under a fortnight’s time.
It will be Lennon’s first game against the Ibrox outfit since guiding the team a 3-0 rout at Parkhead seven years ago in his first spell in charge.
Lennon, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “Psychologically, it’s huge. We are not taking anything for granted, but it’s significant.
“Is there a bit less pressure going into the Rangers game? Yes. It means we don’t have to win it. Ideally, we would love to win it and get over the line as quickly as possible.
“But all the onus is on the other teams around us. The gap between first and second now is bigger than second and third – and that’s significant for us.”
JOY BHOYS…matchwinner Odsonne Edouard celebrates with James Forrest.
With the teams deadlocked at half-time, Lennon told his players he would be willing to wait for a winner – but possibly not as late as six minutes into stoppage time!
He sprinted down the touchline moments after Edouard’s sublime finish to celebrate with the visiting fans and added: “It’s relief, it’s emotion. It’s the importance of the goal. We were not as sharp or as snappy and our final ball and our set-play delivery was disappointing.
“I’m looking at us and thinking we were not doing what we have been doing in training. That may down to fatigue, mental and physical, but I can’t have everything.
“For five minutes, we got a little bit desperate and we were hitting high balls into the box in straight lines and it was very unlike us.
“But we changed the shape. We wanted to go to a back three and get the wing-backs high and wide and stretch Dundee a little bit, but our final ball wasn’t great at times and we were a little bit pedestrian.
“It’s not easy coming in at this stage with the way things are and following in someone’s shoes and taking on the reins of a style of play you are not used to with different players.
“I’ve had to address that bit by bit and what you saw at the end there was just relief at getting the win.
“It’s a totally different pressure here. You’re not going into a club that’s been struggling or the atmosphere has been bad.
“It’s been on the up here for the last two and a half years and a great manager has walked out the door. It’s been a difficult period, but it’s also been an education.”