BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
If Rangers are basking in the warm glow of a Ladbrokes Championship title win come May, they are unlikely to give much thought to that forgettable evening in Kirkcaldy when the mercury hit freezing.
However, Rob Kiernan is of the opinion that the Gers’ attritional 1-0 win over Raith Rovers is exactly the sort of result which illustrates their mettle in fraught fight for promotion.
On a bitterly cold Tuesday night in Fife, Rangers utterly dominated proceedings but failed to carve open their hosts with the regularity that manager Mark Warburton would have wished.
Nevertheless, an Andy Halliday goal 60 seconds before the interval proved enough to secure all three points and retain their eight-point cushion over Hibernian at the summit of the second tier.
It was the second time in the space of four days that Rangers have registered a 1-0 victory, having overcome Falkirk at Ibrox courtesy of an injury-time Billy King strike last Saturday, as the league leaders display an efficacy for grinding out pivotal triumphs.
“I think this team has shown its strengths,” said the former Wigan Athletic defender. “Ideally we would like to score a lot of goals – that is our objective. But sometimes it’s not pretty, you just have to dig out result. That’s what we’ve been doing lately.
“It’s great to keep a clean sheet again, although that’s not just down to the back four. We work on it from one to 11.
“Our main objective at the back is to build a platform, so the boys up top can go and score goals.”
Since their 2-1 defeat against Falkirk on December 19 – which represented a third league fixture in six without winning and was seen as the nadir of Rangers’ campaign – they have won seven consecutive matches, conceding just four goals in the process.
And following their win in Kirkcaldy, Warburton articulated a feeling that Rangers were now firmly in the home straight of their race back to the Premiership, noting “it will fly by now”.
Similarly, Kiernan acknowledges that the Ibrox outfit are within touching distance of their goal for the season, even amid a strong challenge from their Edinburgh rivals.
“Confidence is rising, definitely, and we’ve only got 13 games left now,” he continued. “We know what our objective is. To get there, we need to win football matches.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty or not, we just have to win. We can see the finishing line, of course we can. We have to see it.
“That’s our main objective this season, to get promoted, and we can see the end of the season coming. There are just a few months left in which to keep our concentration, focus on the games – and get there in the end.”
This weekend, however, will provide respite from the ceaseless pressure of their promotion push.
Rangers host Kilmarnock – likely to be lead by former Gers captain Lee McCulloch – in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup on Saturday, with the Glasgow giants seeking to underline their capability to compete at a higher level by eliminating the Premiership strugglers.
“It will be a chance for us to measure our progress,” acknowledged Kiernan. “We’ll go into that game with confidence. We’ll obviously respect Kilmarnock because they’re playing in a league above us. They are going to be a harder test than usual.
“But we’ll take the same mental attitude into it, play our stuff and hopefully get a result.”