IT may still only be January, but the game against Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Stadium yesterday afternoon most definitely fell into the must-win category for Rangers.

Had Steven Gerrard’s men lost to Gary Holt’s team, as had been the fate they suffered on their last trip to West Lothian back in September, they would have found themselves six points off top spot the Ladbrokes Premiership table.

The Ibrox club, though, dealt with the pressure there was on them to perform impressively. Goals from Ryan Jack in the first-half and Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos in the second ensured they leapfrogged Aberdeen and Kilmarnock into second spot.

So what did we learn from events in West Lothian?


The change from the 4-3-3 formation to a 4-4-2 set-up against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park last Wednesday night meant the Rangers manager could field his two January loan signings Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe along with his leading goalscorer Morelos.

The widespread view expressed at the time was that Gerrard felt duty bound to field both of his new boys given the substantial wages the Ibrox club are paying them as well as Morelos because of the number of goals he has netted for his side this season.

The fact the Ibrox club were playing their second match on an artificial pitch in the space of five days led to him putting Davis and Defoe as well as their fellow thirtysomething Gareth McAuley on the bench and bringing in Daniel Candeias, Ross McCrorie and Nikola Katic respectively.

Davis replaced Kent and Defoe came on for Morelos after the away team had scored their third goal to sew up three vital points. But their manager clearly feels no compulsion to play his high-profile acquisitions.

Candeias, who was left out in Ayrshire due to the change in formation, was outstanding throughout while McCrorie was excellent in central midfield. The increased competition for places, then, is having the desired effect.

It will be interesting to see who Gerrard now selects against Cowdenbeath in the William Hill Scottish Cup at Central Park on Wednesday night and the Premiership match against St Mirren at Ibrox on Saturday.


Gerrard was adamant that playing a with a 4-4-2 and a midfield diamond hadn’t been responsible for his team squandering their early lead and slumping to a costly 2-1 loss against Kilmarnock last week.

He was also insistent that reverting to the 4-3-3 he has favoured since taking over had nothing to do with the fine display and comfortable 3-0 triumph against Livingston yesterday.

“We beat ourselves on Wednesday night,” he said. “It was nothing to do with tactics or formation it was to do with a defender gifting Livingston a goal and then a square pass and getting done on a counter attack. It was nothing to do with personnel or 4-4-2 or 4-3-3.”

However, a great strength of his side in the 2018/19 campaign has been his wide players Candeias and Kent and they were far more influential yesterday than they had been five days earlier.


The Croatian centre half made his first start for Rangers since the 7-1 win over Motherwell at Ibrox back on November 11 due to Connor Goldson being injured and McAuley being rested after his midweek exertions.

Many supporters would like to see the 22-year-old given an extended run in the side. It wasn’t easy to determine on the evidence of 90 minutes that his side dominated whether he should. But he certainly did his cause no harm with an assured showing at the back.

“He was very good today, very dominant,” said Gerrard. “There were a couple of little moments we will speak to him about, but, in the main I thought he was very strong. He’s shown since we came back from the break that he’s ready. He’s pushed for a start and he got it today and he’s taken his chance.”


The Colombian striker headed a Borna Barisic cross over the crossbar, hit the post after a defence-splitting through ball by Candeias in the first-half and then back-heeled an Arfield shot straight at Liam Kelly in the second.

However, Scotland’s leading marksman stuck to his task doggedly and was rewarded for his perseverance with a goal, which he buried from a tight angle, that took his tally for the seasons to 21 in all competitions.

Gerrard described the £8 million bid that French club Nice are reportedly preparing to table for his prized asset as “disrespectful”. His player’s all-round performance yesterday showed that he is worth far, far more.


With the outcome of the game beyond doubt, the foul by Rangers centre half Joe Worrall on Livingston substitute Scott Tiffoney inside his own area in injury-time was irrelevant to the result.

But Worrall, whose error had gifted Kilmarnock their opening goal on Wednesday night, was highly fortunate not to be red carded by referee Kevin Clancy for his challenge.

“We should have had a penalty at the end,” said Livingston manager Gary Holt. “It was stonewaller. My granny would have given that.”