Rangers boss Steven Gerrard eager for Hibs rematch after 'feeling hard done by' in 2-2 draw at Easter Road in September
It was three months and 12 matches ago that Rangers last failed to collect maximum points on Premiership duty.
While that 2-2 draw against Hibs at Easter Road on September 20 doesn’t exactly still rankle with Steven Gerrard, the Rangers manager is firm in his belief it was a contest his team should have won.
After conceding their first goal of the season when Drey Wright put Hibs in front, Rangers hit back to lead through goals from Alfredo Morelos and Scott Arfield. They were dominant for lengthy spells but were denied victory by Christian Doidge’s 71st minute equaliser.
It provided Gerrard with a clear indication of how tough a challenge the Scottish Premiership leaders will face when Jack Ross brings his third-placed squad to Ibrox for the rematch on Boxing Day.
“We don’t look back, because you can’t change anything,” said Gerrard. “All that game tells us is that we are going to be in for a tough test on Saturday.
“Hibs are in a good place, they have got good players in good form and it is set up to be a fantastic game.
“We felt hard done by in terms of not winning that last game, with the chances that we had and what we created on the day. But it is always a tough game going to Easter Road.
“It will be another tough test at Ibrox but we are going into it in a good place and we are really looking forward to the game and watching my players play.”
Doidge, who proved a handful for Rangers’ central defenders in the game at Easter Road, will be missing this weekend through suspension after he was sent off in Hibs’ 1-0 midweek win at home to St Mirren. But Gerrard played down the significance of the big Welshman’s absence.
“I only worry about the opposition when the team sheet comes through,” he said. “I focus on me and my players and I worry and concern myself with Hibs when their team comes through before the game.”
Rangers maintained their 16-point lead at the top of the table with a comfortable 3-0 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Wednesday which saw Kemar Roofe continue his recent prolific form as he took his goal tally for the season to 11.
The £3.5 million summer signing from Anderlecht has shown flair and the capacity for spectacular strikes this season, most notably the one from inside his own half against Standard Liege in the Europa League in October. But Gerrard was every bit as thrilled to see him snap up the close range chance presented to him in Perth when Saints ‘keeper Zander Clark spilled Ianis Hagi’s shot.
"Sometimes when you have got strikers, they are the best goals for me because that is what you want them to do,” said Gerrard.
“Obviously Kemar has scored some bangers this season from outside the box, which is pleasing and I am sure they will be his favourites. But, for me, when you have got a number nine and you are taking shots, it is important you are in the right place. It bounced off the keeper and if he is not there then it is cleared away. I think that is just as important a goal as scoring from outside the box, so it was really pleasing to see.
"We altered his role on Wednesday night and he was in a great place. We wanted to bring more technical players in to try and open them up and that has worked.
"Kemar is certainly playing well, he is enjoying it and he is happy. He is fit. When he first came, he was carrying a few niggles but they are clear at the moment. Touch wood, he stays fit and if he does then he will be a real handful at this level.
"He works his socks off, he does everything out of possession that you ask of him, he is clever and bright and he can create and score. He has got the mentality that I really like in a player.”
Glen Kamara, who scored his first league goal of the season against St Johnstone, is another player who continues to impress Gerrard, although he refused to be drawn on any progress over a new contract for the Finnish international.
"No comment on that,” said Gerrard who was more willing to assess whether adding more goals to his game is the next step in the development of a player who has so far earned his reputation as a defensive midfielder.
“I can't take the credit for someone making a fantastic run and finishing a goal like that,” he added. “I can encourage midfielders to join in, of course, and we can give them a platform to do it.
“But they have to carry it out, so Glen deserves all the credit for that. But he's just a fabulous player. He's clever and he can do it. He can get goals, he can get assists. He had an effort that hit the roof of the net just before. What we do is give them licence to go express themselves so it's very pleasing to see.”
Rangers will look to extend a 100 per cent winning record at Ibrox in the Premiership this season against Hibs, having won nine out of nine on their own turf so far to underpin their bid for a first title win in a decade.
"We can discuss our form at Ibrox come the end of the season because there are still a lot of games to play there,” said Gerrard. “Form is temporary, so it is important we keep doing the right things. We have been strong at home, defending well and looking strong going forward. But the tests at home are going to come thick and fast, Hibs and Celtic the next two, so we need to try and maintain that form.”
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