LAST weekend, Rangers capitalised on Celtic and Hearts dropping points as they gained ground in the Premiership.

On Sunday, they gave them straight back again as a small step forward was following by a shock one back at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

The trip to Livingston always had the potential to be a tricky one for Steven Gerrard’s side but it was one they should have been able to negotiate. They didn’t even come close.

A 1-0 defeat, courtesy of Dolly Menga’s first half strike, will go down as a significant blow for the Gers. It leaves them sixth in the Premiership and eight points adrift of Hearts ahead of their meeting at Ibrox this weekend.

The result was embarrassing for Gerrard’s side, but not as much as the performance. This was as poor as Rangers have been this season and the momentum built with the wins over Dundee and St Johnstone, and point in Villarreal, has quickly been lost.

The travelling Gers crowd left their manager and their players in no doubts about their feelings at full-time. No excuses should be offered because none will be accepted by supporters.

After making sweeping changes to the side for the Betfred Cup win over Ayr United in midweek, there was a more familiar look to the line-up that Gerrard selected here.

But it was an uncharacteristic showing from the Light Blues as they struggled to get to grips with the pitch at the Tony Macaroni Arena and the approach from Livingston.

Rangers would have been well aware what to expect from Gary Holt’s side but they were abject in the first half and could have no complaints about going in behind at the break.

Come the end, they could have even fewer about the final outcome. Rangers got what they deserved, and so did Livingston.

It took just two minutes for the hosts to create their first chance as Menga knocked the ball wide to Scott Pittman, who should have scored as he dinked a shot over Allan McGregor and wide of target.

That should have been the early warning sign for Rangers but they struggled defensively, both in the air and on the ground, and had nothing about them up front as they failed to find any rhythm.

Ten minutes in, Livingston had another clear cut chance as Keaghan Jacobs whipped in a free-kick from the left. Craig Halkett rose well but didn’t go for goal and Alan Lithgow couldn’t convert at the far post as Rangers were once again let off.

Alfredo Morelos and Kyle Lafferty were isolated in the final third and the Northern Irishman slipped at the crucial moment as Borna Barisic fired in a cross from the left after a neat pass from Scott Arfield set him free.

Morelos, denied a penalty after referee Craig Thomson waved away appeals following a challenge from Steven Lawless, headed over from a Lassana Coulibaly cross. Minutes later, the Malian was denied as keeper Liam Kelly held a tame headed effort.

Rangers needed to raise their game significantly as Livingston went about their business efficiently and effectively. The goal would soon arrive, and it was no surprise at what end.

Ovie Ejaria forced Kelly into action on the half hour mark but his shot from the edge of the area was easily saved after Rangers saw a corner cleared and worked the ball back to the midfielder.

That was as close as Rangers would come before Livingston took the lead, and before the end of a remarkably poor first 45 minutes from Gerrard’s side.

The Gers once again failed to clear their lines from another Jacobs free-kick and when Livingston regrouped on the right, they made the most of the second chance to attack.

Scott Robinson was allowed to burst to into the area far too easily and he picked out Menga. The striker made no mistake and fired Holt’s side into the lead.

As the celebrations kicked off in the home end, the inquest began in the Rangers area. In truth, nobody in blue could have had any complaints.

Gerrard had to change things at the break and it was Coulibaly that paid the price as he was replaced by Ryan Kent. A few would have breathed a sigh of relief that they weren’t the ones that were taken off.

It was Kent that created Rangers’ first chance after the restart as he slipped the ball through the Livingston defence and into the path of Morelos. As Kelly closed the angle, the Colombian couldn’t convert.

There still wasn’t a lot for the travelling Gers support to shout about but there was a moment they will be embarrassed about. Linesman Calum Spence appeared to be hit with an object thrown from the away crowd and had to receive treatment.

After being seen to by the Livingston medical staff, he was able to continue and Rangers will liaise with Livingston to find the culprit that shamed the club.

The break in play didn’t knock Livingston off their stride and Rangers had McGregor to thank for keeping them in the game as he saved well from Pittman. From the following corner, Lithgow spurned a glorious chance as he headed wide from a good position.

The clock was now very much against Rangers and Gerrard was staring at his second league defeat. His side looked devoid of ideas and lacked threat and Livingston were hardly under siege or pressure.

The Gers became increasingly desperate as they piled forward but there was no craft or guile. In launching aimless balls into the area, they played right into Livingston’s hands.

The final whistle brought an end to their chances but the hope seemed to have disappeared long before as Gerrard’s side toiled.

It was a double blow for Rangers. Three points had been lost, and so had the momentum.