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BACK PAGE BULLETIN: EX-CELT PINPOINTS GERS PROBLEM, STENDEL HAILS HEARTS, ROSS ADMITS DERBY HURT

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FORMER Celtic striker Darren Jackson reckons the pressure on Rangers since the turn of the year has told on Steven Gerrard’s players.

The Ibrox side closed the gap on eight-in-a-row champions Celtic to two points with a game in hand when they won 2-1 at Parkhead on December 28.

They knew they could go one ahead if they won their outstanding fixture against St Johnstone, but a horrendous start to 2020 has seen Gerrard’s side slump a massive TWELVE points adrift of the Hoops who are now massive favourites to lift yet another crown.

Neil Lennon has led his side to eight consecutive Premiership triumphs since the winter break and hopes to extend that to nine when they face Livingston in West Lothian tonight while the Gers take on Hamilton Accies in Govan.

Gerrard has seen his side drop 10 points with losses to Hearts and Kilmarnock and draws with Aberdeen and St Johnstone.

Former Scotland international forward Jackson, speaking to PLZ Soccer, said: “I’ve been in management with smaller clubs and sometimes you expect inconsistency.

“But at Rangers when you’re spending a lot of money and bringing in players, Steven Gerrard must be pulling his hair out.

“Up until Christmas when they beat Celtic, everyone at Ibrox must have been thinking: ‘We’ve won the league now’. Their performance was fantastic in the two Celtic games, they’ve shown they can go and compete with Celtic.

“I think winning that game put all the pressure onto the players because they were expected then to be favourites. And they’ve not handled it.

“Playing for Celtic and Rangers it’s all about handling the pressure and the fans just thought: ‘We’re going to win it now’ and the expectation levels have been too much for a lot of the players.”

HEARTS boss Daniel Stendel admits he is “very proud” of his players for overcoming Hibs 3-1 at Easter Road to move off the bottom of the Premiership.

Second-half goals by Sean Clare, with a penalty-kick, Oliver Bozanic and Conor Washington put the Tynecastle men 3-0 up before Melker Hallberg claimed a late consolation.

Stendel’s outfit are now a points ahead of Hamilton Accies who play Rangers at Ibrox tonight.

The German coach, speaking to BBC Scotland, said: “It is a great result and we deserved it.

“We are under pressure at the moment, but how solid the players were was great.”

Following Saturday night’s 1-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final win over Steven Gerrard’s team, the derby victory means Hearts have earned back-to-back wins over top-flight opposition for the first time in over a year.

With a home fixture with Motherwell to come, Stendel emphasised the importance of his team maintaining a high level of performance.

He added: “What’s important for is that after the victory on Saturday, we did it again. We have our next chance on Saturday at Tynecastle and we want to use all our chances at the moment.”

KILLER GOAL…Conor Washington thumps in No.3 as Hearts rout Hibs.

JACK ROSS admitted the 3-1 loss to Hearts at Easter Road “hurts” after a second-half turnaround.

The defeat damages the Leith club’s Europa League aspirations, as they missed the chance to narrow the gap on third place to two points.

Ross, speaking to BBC Scotland, said: “You can’t downplay the soreness of losing a game like this. It means an awful lot to people that come to watch the club and people that are associated with the club

“It hurts and it stings but in terms of the bigger picture it’s very easy to get caught up in the extremes of the emotion in football. That’s what we’ve got to make sure we don’t do.”

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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