STEVEN Gerrard insists the No 9 jersey at Rangers is now Jermain Defoe’s to lose after the Englishman’s early goal put the Ibrox side on course for their third win in a row without the services of Alfredo Morelos.

A 3-1 win at Tynecastle yesterday means the Ibrox side have scored nine goals and conceded just one during the three matches the Colombian has spent on the sidelines in the wake of his Old Firm ordering off.

Morelos still has one match of the ban left to serve but Gerrard insisted last night that Defoe was now the man in possession of the jersey.

“I’m not surprised how well he has been doing,” said Gerrard. “Jermain has got unbelievable quality and if you play a system that suits him and helps him in certain things then he will get you goals and he gives you movement.

"You can tell defenders are really scared to get too close to him because of his quality and he is contributing - whether it is goals or assists. He has got the No 9 shirt at the moment; it will be interesting how he performs from now until the end of the season.

Evening Times: Steven Gerrard and Jermain DefoeSteven Gerrard and Jermain Defoe

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“I don’t pick on reputation and name,” he added. “That goes for anyone, not just in the No 9 position. The first six months of the season Alfredo was in that good form and it just made sense to bring him back, there wasn’t really anyone challenging for that No 9. But there is a challenge there now. There is a player playing with his confidence high, creating chances and scoring goals. That is the way Rangers should be, we should have options in that area – especially this area.”

With the gap now down to eight points, Celtic cannot win the title till next weekend at the earliest. Gerrard was understandably delighted by a fluent team performance which completed a clean sweep against the Tynecastle club and could have ended in a more convincing margin of victory. Challenging the squad to finish strong by taking a maximum 12 points from their remaining four games, he handed USA international Matt Polster his debut, and said the midfielder was someone who could surprise a few people.

“I think our play today was very entertaining,” said Gerrard. “On another day we could have got five, six goals. We just needed that little bit more quality at the end but to come to a place like this is difficult so to score three goals and win the game quite comfortable is a huge bonus for us. There are 12 points left to win and we want to give it our best efforts to try and take maximum points if we can.”

His opposite number Craig Levein castigated his side for failing to press the game with enough conviction. While things improved in an attacking sense in the second half, with substitute Steven MacLean getting one back, he said he couldn’t argue too much with those fans who left the ground in disgust just 50 minutes in with their team three goals in arrears. He hoped to atone in next week’s Edinburgh derby at Easter Road. 

“I was well unhappy as half-time approached as well,” said Levein. “It was a hell of a frustrating half. The fans are the same as me - frustrated when we don’t play well. I’ve no issue with the fans letting us know when we are not playing well. I think that is part of their duty. I’m just as unhappy as those guys. We need to do better to make the fans happy, that’s the priority, and next week is a real chance to do that. Right now, I don’t know who is playing in the final so there are opportunities there for people to stake a claim.”