STEVEN Gerrard has backed Rangers to take confidence from their impressive 2-0 win over Celtic at Ibrox and challenge their city rivals for domestic silverware next season if they can reproduce the same level of performance on a consistent basis.

An early James Tavernier free-kick and a second-half Scott Arfield strike gave Gerrard’s side a richly-deserved 2-0 triumph over Neil Lennon’s strangely out-of-sorts team in their penultimate Ladbrokes Premiership fixture.

The result was meaningless in terms of this season’s title race as the visitors, who were missing both James Forrest and Kieran Tierney due to injury, had wrapped up their eighth consecutive Scottish title win last weekend.

But Gerrard, who declined to comment on a Jon Flanagan challenge on Scott Brown that Lennon insisted had merited a red card, is optimistic that Rangers can build on the display into the 2019/20 campaign and vie strongly for their first major honour since back in 2011.

“We were outstanding from start to finish,” he said. “We’ve built on the last four or five performances really and that’s probably been the best of them all.

“Celtic are a good team with top players. We’re very respectful of their achievements and what they’re probably going on to achieve in a couple of weeks (in the William Hill Scottish Cup final). It’s very important that we show that respect.

“But today was about Rangers from start to finish. We dominated in every department so the players deserve a lot of credit.

“We are no one without desire. I think to achieve things at the top level of football there are certain words that have to be non-negotiable and desire is one of them. Especially with this crowd. You would be found out very quickly if you don’t shot desire, whether that is individually or collectively. That was there in abundance today. We need to carry that into next season.”

Gerrard added: “We should take a lot of belief and confidence from this performance and this result. If you analyse the four derby games I think we have been more than a match.

“That hasn’t been the area where we have fallen short. We have drawn too many games elsewhere. There has been one or two disappointing defeats within that as well. It is a huge challenge here. Just because we have won today and performed very well it doesn’t make it any easier next season.

“Celtic aren’t going to go away, they’re going to improve. There’s still a target for us which is to try and knock them off their perch. As I say, we are very respectful to the challenge and the opposition, but we have to take confidence and belief from games like this.

“At our best we have shown that we can compete and beat them, but we have to do it over a longer period of time. That is a bigger challenge. You have to do it in cup competitions in a one-off game. That is the challenge moving forward.

“Can we do it better over a longer period? Can we be more consistent over a longer period? Or if it gets to the stage where we meet in cup competitions can we perform at that level because that level beats them.”

Rangers left back Flanagan was only yellow carded by referee Kevin Clancy despite appearing to elbow Brown in the face as Callum McGregor prepared to take a corner in the second-half. “I haven’t seen the incident so I don’t want to say too much on it,” said Gerrard.

The Liverpool and England grat, whose team beat Celtic 1-0 in the Old Firm game at Ibrox back in December, singled out midfielder Ryan Jack and centre half Nikola Katic for special praise after both men performed well in front of the 49,844-strong crowd.

“Jacko has been a dream to coach, a dream to be around,” he said. “He coaches himself. He’s a winner, he has incredible standards.

“For someone who missed the majority of the season before because of injury, he has had an incredible season. I’m delighted with him and he is one who you toss into any team sheet you can find.”

Asked about Katic, he said: “They way I look at the central defenders is that you have three for two places. You have a young lad who is part of a project you are trying to get to the next level, and you have a guy with experience.

“Niko, Connor (Goldson) and Joe (Worral) have been the ones this year who have fought for the shirts. They’ve all had opportunities. Katic has finished the strongest and proved he is first choice alongside Goldson. He will, I’m sure, grow and improve next season.”