STEVEN GERRARD has told his Rangers players to try to “win ugly”.
The Ibrox boss was not impressed with his side’s sluggish start in the 1-1 draw with Hearts at Tynecastle yesterday.
It was the team’s first dropped points in the Premiership since they lost 2-0 to Celtic in Govan on September 1 and it cost them their place at the top by the slenderest of margins.
Alfredo Morelos notched his 15th goal of the season to nullify the early opener by Japanese forward Ryotaro Meshino following another blunder from skipper James Tavernier.
Gerrard now faces a challenge to get his players prepared for Thursday’s Europa League encounter against Porto and he has warned them anything less than a positive approach right from the off could bring dire consequences.
The Gers gaffer, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “It’s about mentality. It’s that realisation of the opportunity to win a football match.
“With all respect to Hearts, we should be fired up more than we were. We should be ready to compete, coming out of the blocks more focused.
“That’s the disappointing thing. To be successful, we have to come to places like this and if we’re not there in an attacking sense, still grind and compete and win ugly, 1-0.
WHAM…Alfredo Morelos snaps up the equaliser with a right-foot drive.
“If we start like that against Porto, we could be in trouble. Big trouble. We need to start the game better.
“However I know, when this team is tuned in, they can compete. They can win big matches on the road. They can.
“That’s the reason why I’m frustrated now because I don’t think I’ve seen that too much of late in the way we’ve started games.
“But, certainly, if we’re to go to Ross County and Pittodrie and Livingston in the coming weeks, we’re going to have to start those games a lot better.
“We’re going to have to compete and fight – and rely on our game changers to perform better.”
Hearts lost all four league games to the Ibrox side last season and Rangers were undefeated in their last eight against Craig Levein’s team going into yesterday’s match, including seven wins.
CELEBRATIONS…Morelos slides along the turf after hitting his leveller.
Gerrard continued: “I don’t think we performed well enough to win the game, that’s for sure. I certainly see it as two points dropped right now.
“We didn’t start the game well enough. I thought we were poor in the early exchanges and were lucky not to be 2-0 down.
“Hearts had a fantastic header which hit the bar, but we need to be doing better to stop the cross, we need to be heading those situations away.
“Then we did go a goal behind and Hearts deserved it, although it was an individual error again which cost us.”
Talking about the title race, Gerrard added: “Look, it’s early days. We never got carried away by going top and we won’t be overly disappointed at the moment.
“There is a lot of football to be played, a lot of twists and turns.
“We knew this was a tough away game. But we felt that, if we did it right and put in the right performance, we would have been capable of getting three points – we just didn’t do that.”