Steven Gerrard admits Rangers’ fitness woes are starting to give him cause for concern after seeing Scott Arfield join Ryan Jack in the treatment room.
The boss was delighted to see his side come through another stiff examination of their title credentials as they held on to beat a dogged Hibernian 1-0 at Ibrox.
But some of the shine was taken off his team’s 12th straight league win as substitute Arfield limped off after just six minutes on the pitch as he suffered an ankle knock in a collision with Melker Hallberg.
That is another blow to Gerrard, who admits he is growing frustrated as Jack’s six-week knee lay-off rumbles on, ahead of a vital week which sees his team head to Paisley to face St Mirren before next Saturday’s Old Firm clash with Celtic at Ibrox.
“I’m worried about it because Scott doesn’t come off the pitch in normal circumstances,” said Gerrard after watching Ianis Hagi’s winner seal the points against Hibs. “He doesn’t normally ask for a physio to come on, he’s one who will just normally get up and go.
“He’s a brave kid so I’m concerned about it. We’ll assess it. He’s got ice on the ankle area but until it actually gets scanned and assessed properly I’ve got nothing for you unfortunately.
“As for Ryan, we are having a few issues with his recovery and I’m frustrated with it.
“We don’t have a time frame on his recovery. We need him back as he is an important player for us.”
Gers dominated the opening half but all they had to show for it was Hagi’s second goal in as many games after 32 minutes.
That slender lead gave Hibs plenty of encouragement to go at the unbeaten Premiership leaders in the second period.
Gers held firm – but only after surviving two penalty shouts when Hagi caught Joe Newell with a high boot before James Tavernier collided with Ryan Porteous at a corner.
Gerrard said: “Hibs did extremely well to stay in the game. Jack (Ross) sets them up extremely well and they always carry a threat because they’ve got good players.
“But I’ve got even more praise for my team for getting over the line and winning it because we knew it was going to be a tough challenge. We’ve stood up to that and managed it extremely well.
“If you don’t get that second goal you’re going to get a few nervy moments towards the end – but it’s a big win, clean sheet and 12 on the spin now, so I’m really happy.
“Resilience and character are a must. If we want to go the distance it’s not always going to be easy. You know you’re going to have to rely on your big players to stand up and be counted and I thought we did.
“Borna Barisic has made a match-saving block to maintain maximum points, Allan McGregor comes and takes an important cross, so everyone is standing up and doing their roles.
“We’re in a much better place than we have been previously when faced with this situation because, recruitment-wise, we’ve got much better players in the door now with all due respect.”
Gerrard also hailed his match-winner as the resurgent Hagi shrugged off a disappointing start to the campaign to net another vital goal after Wednesday’s strike in Perth.
“He has been given an opportunity to come back into the team and he has taken it,” he said. “Ianis is still developing and he is still young. You could see him tiring in the closing stages.
“I was very pleased again with his performance as I was in midweek. He’s in a good place.”
Hibs boss Jack Ross insisted his side should have had at least one spot-kick.
He said: “The second one is a penalty. I’ve had the benefit of watching it again and it is clear cut… it’s very obvious that it is a penalty.
“But we didn’t get it so we have to move on from it.
“We are trying to grow and foster a mentality at the club where we are not happy to lose matches, so we are disappointed we have not taken anything from the game.
“But it’s a day for tempering that with pride in large parts of our performance. I thought we were excellent in how hard we made Rangers work for their victory in a stadium where they have been relentless this season.”