STEVEN GERRARD breathed a sigh of relief after watching Rangers beat Ross County 1-0 in Dingwall this afternoon – and then issued a stirring rallying call to his players.
A deflected shot from £7million winger Ryan Kent was enough to stop the rot after a miserable run of three domestic games without a victory.
Gerrard is now squaring up to the Europa League challenge from Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen at Ibrox on Thursday night – three days before they take on Celtic who are 13 points better off as they chase their ninth successive title.
The Govan gaffer revealed he could be without skipper James Tavernier, midfielder Ryan Jack and striker Jermain Defoe for the visit of the German cracks in the last-32 encounter.
But insisted the players are up for the fight that lies ahead.
Gerrard, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “I have been through these phases as a player where it’s just not going for you and there is a lot of noise and criticism.
“You need a moment or a game where you start building it back again – and today was a start.
“It’s fantastic we have such a huge game to look forward to now. We can smile going down the road and do all our preparation for what will be a really tough match against Bayer.
“However, we deserve this opportunity and I want the players to go and play with courage and belief, let themselves go and see where that takes us.”
The Gers boss added: “I’m sure they will be feeling better about themselves. We’ve been really open as a group, probably too open at times, and it has been tough.
“We needed this victory. The only medicine for a bad period of games or a poor run of form is winning and keeping clean sheets, so this is a start.
“It’s a big win and three points. I don’t think we were fantastic from start to finish. We can certainly find higher levels and have looked better during the season.
“But we came up here to do a job after a difficult week. It was about getting the three points in any way, shape or form and credit to the players for delivering that.
“Ross County had one chance where Allan McGregor made a save, but we dominated in terms of possession and getting into their final third.
“I would like us a little bit more inventive, people taking chances and shooting more often as that’s when we are at our fluent best.
“But in the circumstances, where we have been this last week, I’m pleased.
“There were a lot of positives.
“The only negative is that in the last 24 hours we have lost Defoe, Tavernier and Jack to injuries, which isn’t ideal for myself or the group.
“Defoe is definitely out for Thursday and although there is a chance for Jack and Tav, the next couple of days are crucial.”
Kent claimed his eighth goal of the season in the 77th minute just before it looked as though he was about to be withdrawn for Jordan Jones. It was perfect timing for the former Liverpool prospect with his shot taking a nick of Ricky Foster on its way past Ross Laidlaw.