STV Sport sponsored by Papa Johns

Gerrard: Shielding players from title talk will be ‘a challenge’

The Rangers manager says he can't lose focus despite a huge lead in the Premiership.

Gerrard: Shielding players from title talk will be ‘a challenge’ SNS Group

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard believes it will be difficult to quell talk of winning the league but is determined to keep focus as the team progress toward their goal.

A 1-1 draw at Motherwell on Sunday was only the third time that the team has failed to win in the league this season, but it re-established a 21-point gap on nearest rivals Celtic after the Parkhead side drew with Livingston a day earlier.

Though Neil Lennon’s side has three games in hand, they are already running out of matches to catch up and coach Gavin Strachan said it would be “very, very tough” to sucessfully defend the title.

Gerrard admits his job now is to make sure that any talk of title celebrations is kept away from the players so they can concentrate on delivering the points needed.

“It’s going to be a challenge because the reality is there are big prizes to play for,” he said.

“It’s impossible not to realise where we are as a group and what’s at stake. But it’s important that we stay focused and don’t get ahead of ourselves and stay focused on each challenge.

“That’s where we are trying to keep the boys in terms of their thinking and the preparation.

“After a fantastic win no-one’s getting too high and if we have a bump or don’t get the result we want it’s important to stay calm.

“We haven’t managed to stretch our lead today but at the same time we haven’t lost anything either.”

Motherwell had taken the lead at Fir Park through Devante Cole but Rangers upped their game after the break and Cedric Itten came off the bench to head home a leveller for the visitors. Gerrard noted the contrast between his side’s first and second half performance and said some players had been guilty of being too “passive”.

“If you look at possession, chances created and our second-half performance, we maybe should have shaded it,” he said. “But we have ourselves to blame for the outcome because we never came to this game until half-time.

“Our normally reliable players, the front three and coming in from the sides, the quality wasn’t good enough.

“I had to get into the players at half-time. I was going to make a change at half-time but I thought I’d give people a little bit more time.

“But then things weren’t changing as quickly as I would have liked, so the game was crying out for a Cedric-type player. He came on and did really well.

“If he keeps providing like that I can’t ignore him for too long. I’m really pleased with his cameo today. He looked strong, lively and was a threat.

“He’s really honest and he’s never passive. In the first half too many of our players were passive so that’s what I was disappointed about.”