DAVID Bates last night insisted Rangers are capable of catching Celtic at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership if they continue to perform as well as they did at Parkhead on Saturday in the second half of the season.

The 21-year-old centre half picked up the Man of the Match champagne after coming on for his injured team mate Bruno Alves in the 18th minute and then helping his side to keep a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw.

It was an unexpected performance and result as the Ibrox club had lost two of their last three games and manager Graeme Murty was missing Graham Dorrans, Ryan Jack, Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace.

But Bates is convinced that Rangers, who will head to the United States for a warm-weather training camp during the winter shutdown, can build on the display and reduce the 11 point lead their city rivals hold when the league starts up against at the end of January.

“It was good to get a point on Saturday, but in the circumstances the boys were disappointed not to take all three points,” he said “Alfredo (Morelos) missed a couple of headers and I can’t really remember Celtic having too many clear-cut chances in the second half.

“At half-time we just said we had ridden the pressure and they’d had a couple of chances. We’d got through it and we said we could kick on and play our own stuff. You saw that in the second half. We controlled a bit more of the game. The gaps started appearing and we got a few chances.

“We’ve got the break now. We go to Florida and Murts can put his stamp on the team. He has three weeks to put across how he wants us to play. It will be a good trip. Confidence will be high for the second half of the season. We can’t wait to get started again.”

Asked if it was unrealistic to expect Rangers to claw back Celtic’s lead at the top of the Premiership table in the remaining games of the 2017/18 campaign, Bates said: "I don't think so, no.

"That performance on Saturday shows what we have as a team. We have a lot of injuries, too, with Kenny, Graham and Lee all out. So remember we have a lot of players to come back from injuries.

"Everyone gets on well with the manager. He's come in and given the place a right lift. We need to back him and show it on the pitch. You can see how he set us up Saturday, he makes us hard to beat. We will play as well as we can for him."

Bates, though, admitted that Rangers, who were beaten by St. Johnstone at home and Kilmarnock away last month, must start performing on a weekly basis to stand any chance of catching runaway Premiership leaders Celtic.

"We just need that bit of consistency about us,” he said. “We went on that run of four wins, but we couldn’t maintain it. We need to get consistency. We have dropped points too easily especially with home games.

"All the games are different. Celtic are going to have a lot of the ball, especially at their own place. When you play against Dundee or Hamilton they are going to sit in and try and play on the counter-attack.

“So it's a completely different game, but it is something we should maybe get better at because we have taken points from the likes of Aberdeen and Hibs, so maybe we need to do better against others."

Bates praised his fellow centre half David Bates and right back James Tavernier for helping him cope with his debut in the Old Firm game and perform so well after taking over from Portugal internationalist Alves.

“I saw Bruno waving across to the bench, so I went out for a warm-up, but I didn’t get much of one really,” he said. “It’s always going to be tougher coming into an Old Firm game. I was glad to get in at half-time, get my breath back and go again.

“I know Danny really well. I played a lot of games with him last season and again recently. He talks me through the games really well and he’s a great defender. Tav helps me through as well, screaming at me all the time.

“The manager has told me before the games that he trusts me to go out and do it, to put on a good performance. He has helped me a lot. I worked with him in the under-20s team. He used to teach me dropping off and defending. He was a defender himself, so he does help me a lot.

“I’m not sure how bad Bruno’s injury is. I just need to try and get on the pitch and do as well as I can. I played at Aberdeen when he was out, but unfortunately I then dropped out of the team again. I just need to keep pushing for a place.”

Bates, who was Man of the Match in the 2-1 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie back at the start of December, is hoping he can get an extended run in the side when competitive action resumes with a William Hill Scottish Cup game against Fraserburgh in three weeks’ time.

"It's just trying to establish yourself,” he said. “Obviously, you have the likes of Bruno who has played for Portugal I don't know how many times and then you have Danny who is a top class centre half.

“So trying to get into the team is hard. So if I get a chance I have to just keep trying to put a performance in and hopefully I can get a run of games."