Michael Beale saw his Rangers side fall to a 2-0 defeat at Aberdeen and warned his players they can’t afford similar perfomances next season.
Goals from Liam Scales and Bojan Miovski earned the Dons a seventh consecutive win under interim manager Barry Robson, and denied Rangers the opportunity to narrow the points gap at the top of the table.
With Celtic now just needing one win to complete their defence of the Premiership trophy, Rangers will have to settle for second best in the league this year. Beale has ambition to lead the team to title glory next season though, and says his players will need to learn that they can’t afford to let too many points slip on the road.
I think it’s a warning sign going into next year. We’ve gone away from home and blown a few teams away but next year that sort of result will be hugely damaging to us.
“It’s an eye-opener for one or two players,” the Rangers boss said. “The lesson for the team is that when you get the sort of opportunities that we had today, you have to take them.
“You have to do that in any game of football against any opponent, but certainly here.”
Rangers had chances but came up against an Aberdeen team in strong form and who pressed their opponents in front of a passionate crowd. The opening goal came from Scales bursting forward to win the ball in Rangers half and then hitting what appeared to be a cross that flew over Rangers keeper Allan McGregor and into the far corner of the net.
“The first goal is obviously a bit of a freak goal and then I didn’t really like our reaction for ten or 15 minutes,” Beale said. “I thought we reacted poorly. I thought one or two started taking extra touches.
“I thought Aberdeen kept playing forward and pressing down on us, pressure football and we have to stay in the game at that moment., We have to defend the far post better.
“In the build-up (to the second goal) there might have been a foul but we’ve got to play on because after that there’ll be chances. And there was. We had another big chance with Rabbi and a huge chance with James as well. We come as an away team and have six massive opportunities but take none.”
That “wastefulness” frustrated Beale and he said it wasn’t the first game where he had seen too many chances passed up.
He said: “We started the game quite well. Big chances, a fantastic clearance off the line from Alfredo Morelos’ shot early in the game and then a really good team move and we see Fashion Sakala go through one on one with the goalie.
“Borna Barisic hits the post then Nico Raskin gets in and shoots when maybe he should give the ball to Malik Tillman for a simple tap-in.
“We had another big chance with Rabbi Matondo, we have a huge chance with James Tavernier as well. We come as an away team today, have six massive opportunities and we take none.
“In every game we play we have missed more chances than we have taken. Regardless of how many goals we have scored, we are a team that has been quite wasteful and you would always say that it is better to create chances, that is a good sign.
“But you have to take them. As an away team today, how dominant we were at times, we have to take our chances.”
Rangers now have to pick themselves up for next weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic.
“We have to take our medicine, go down the road, push it to one side and focus on next week,” Beale added.
“I think it’s the reality of Scottish football for some players. Aberdeen looked like they’re back to their old self, quite front foot, aggressive in the way they play.
“You could see what it meant to them in the end, and that’s fine, it’s a rivalry and you could see what it meant to them to get the win.”
Aberdeen’s interim manager further enhanced his case to land the job on a permanent basis but when asked how the win might affect his chances, he was keen to turn all credit to the players.
“Five questions in! You know the answer, don’t you,” he said. “We’ll talk about that later.
“Let’s not get carried away about me or ‘are you going to get the job’. Let’s put this about the players and the fans today.
“It’s not about me. Put it on to them, talk about how good they’ve been, how much they ran and fought for the club.
“That’s what I’d like all of you to talk about, not about me.”
However, Robson was surprised during the game when he says referee Nick Walsh wanted the ball boys to speed up returning the ball to play.
He said: “The referee for the first time in my 20, 30 years in football, it was the first time he’s come over and said, ‘can you tell the ball boys to hurry up’. Thirty years? I didn’t get that one.
“I can’t remember, maybe 10, 15 minutes to go. I’ve not heard that one before. I’m not falling out with the referee, I just found it quite funny.”