WHEN James Tavernier spoke in the aftermath of Rangers’ defeat to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in January, he admitted that Steven Gerrard’s side could ill-afford another slip-up if they were to challenge for the Premiership title.

The Light Blues haven’t lost a game since, but their ambitions of lifting the league crown are hanging by a thread. Now, another mishap on Tuesday night could well bring a premature end to their campaign in a competitive sense.

The Scottish Cup stalemate with Killie wasn’t that costly, and neither was the draw at Pittodrie in the first running of their quarter-final clash. The points dropped at home to St Johnstone saw Rangers lose ground in the league, however, and the same outcome on Friday night looked like being the blow from which they couldn't recover until Celtic followed their lead and were held by Aberdeen.

The 1-1 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road summed up Rangers’ season in many ways and the frustrations felt were familiar for Gerrard, his players and supporters.

This was an opportunity missed as a result of missed opportunities. The performance was dominant for long spells, but Rangers somehow found themselves hanging on after Florian Kamberi had cancelled out Daniel Candeias’ opener.

That strike from the Swiss gave Hibernian hope where there had previously appeared to be little and Rangers were once again left to rue a succession of attacks that were so near yet so far and a lack of instinct in front of goal.

It is one thing not being able to kill teams off, but another when you aren’t able to then see games out. Too often this season, Rangers have been masters of their own downfall.

A night that could have been another important step in the right direction turned into one of what might have been for Gerrard’s side. Once again, it was left to Tavernier to dissect where it all went wrong and to convey the frustrations of the dressing room.

“You could use the words disappointing, raging, that we had to come in after a good first 45 minutes where we felt we should be two, three goals up,” Tavernier said. “We have played them three times now where we believe we have created a lot of chances and we are not putting them in the back of the net.

“Moments like that, we have still got to see out the game. The gaffer has said it before that we go three steps forward, one step back and this is a game where we have stepped back.

“Throughout the season, European games, we have seen games out. It is disappointing.

“I felt it was a foul on me leading up to the goal but it is one of those where we have got to be resilient and put the team to bed and defend properly.”

Once Gerrard had dealt with the contentious issues on and off the park on Friday evening, he was frank and honest about where it had gone wrong for Rangers this season.

The performance of referee Steven McLean angered the 38-year-old and the supporters that watched on in disbelief at some of the decisions given or not, while the headlines were made by the shocking incident at half-time as Tavernier was confronted by a Hibernian fan.

In terms of the football, Gerrard is well aware what the issues are and the annoyance was clear to see as his side failed to turn their possession into goals, and ultimately three points.

When Rangers return to action at Ibrox tomorrow evening, there can be no repeat. If there is, Aberdeen could end the Light Blues’ silverware chances this term.

“Even before Friday night, every game is important,” Tavernier said. “We said before that we had to win every game and this is definitely a back step but Tuesday is a crucial game.

“We have to do everything in our power to put our full focus into that game and give everything we have got.

“The lads know we have improved our squad massively this season, we have had a lot of boys come in to the squad. You have Jermain and people like that that are not expecting to come here and not win anything.

“They have come to this team because they want to win trophies, want to win medals. A club like Rangers can’t go on for anymore seasons without any silverware.

“We can’t have this lingering on. We have to fix what we need to fix and put a very good performance on. That is what it is going to take to put us through to the next round.”

Come full-time at Ibrox, that is all that will matter for Rangers and the home crowd and the result carries far more significance than the performance in the last eight replay.

The chances of Gerrard’s side catching and overcoming Celtic in the Premiership are still faint, and it is their Old Firm rivals that will stand between them and a place in the final should Rangers defeat the Dons and progress to the semi-finals.

It has been a season of many positives for Gerrard as the dark cloud have been replaced by hopes for a brighter future at Ibrox. He knows as well as anyone the importance of a silver lining, though.