THE feelings of disappointment will subside for Rangers, but those of ‘what if?’ will linger on at Ibrox.

Come the end of the campaign, it will be a case of so near yet so far when Steven Gerrard and his players reflect and summon up the energy and enthusiasm to go again.

There are still nine games to take care of this season, but there is little to play for apart from pride. Any hopes of silverware were ended when the final whistle sounded and Aberdeen’s place in the Scottish Cup semi-final was confirmed.

It is a blow from which Rangers can’t recover this term and it is only a matter of time before their Premiership title hopes meet a similar fate.

There was an air of despondency around Ibrox, a nagging knowing that the season was all-but over.

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“It is a flat dressing room and everyone is disappointed because we came into the game confident, like you have to be, with a chance to progress in the competition and play in a semi-final,” striker Jermain Defoe said. “That is what we all wanted. I think, watching it from the side, I felt we were the better team.

“They got the early goal and we were disappointed. But after that we looked sharp, Jacko (Ryan Jack) hit the post and, in hindsight, if they hadn’t got the early goal it would have been a different game. They’re a good team. But obviously we’re disappointed. You can imagine everyone’s gutted. We wanted to progress.

“I don’t think you can really think like [the season is over] I think you’ve always got to try and remain positive. Obviously the next few days are going to be difficult because as players you’re naturally disappointed following such a result. You just want the next game to come round quick to try and put things right.

“The lads are gutted, to be honest. Obviously we knew they weren’t going to make it easy, the way they play.

“I think especially that early goal would’ve been like a dream for them. It also made it even more difficult for us to get into any sort of rhythm, trying to stop us from playing and creating chances. But overall it’s a massive disappointment.”

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When Defoe made the move from Bournemouth in January, his arrival, and that of Steven Davis, were seen as a statement of intent from Rangers as Gerrard set his sights on his first medals as a manager.

His side have never really had the look of champions, though, as strides forward have been followed by steps back during a frustrating run.

The Scottish Cup was always going to be their best chance of success this term and Defoe was as desperate as anyone to end Rangers’ wait for a moment to savour at Hampden.

“Consistency is probably the biggest thing in football at any level,” he said. “To be consistent, to win the next game and the next and so on, to put in those performances that are going to win football matches.

“You can’t always play well. But it’s to have that mentality, to try and win every match you play in, no matter what happens.

“It’s never easy. But it’s not for the want of trying. Every player in that dressing room, the senior lads, the younger lads, everyone wants to do well. Everyone wants to bring the success back to this football club.I hear everyone at the training ground talking about it, how desperate we are to get those glory days back.

“And I don’t think we’re too far away. I wouldn’t want to be in any other dressing room. We’ll see what happens.”

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The lure of silverware was one of the reasons that Defoe chose to clinch a loan switch across the border rather than adding another stop to his journey in England.

But his wait will go on. If he remains at Ibrox for next season, he will certainly hope for better.

The Gers will return to action against Kilmarnock on Saturday and attempt to recover from their latest setback. Now, second place in the league must be secured.

“I’ve been in dressing rooms before and you look round at dressing rooms and you think ‘wow’ because of some of the players you’ve got,” Defoe said. “But for whatever reason, when you need that bit of luck or that know-how, it just doesn’t happen for you. But I don’t think you can just take the view the season’s finished and switch off. You can’t switch off as players, you have to look forward to the next game.

“If we get criticised then as professionals you have to take it on the chin.

“When you get disappointments you can’t just crumble and hide.

“You have to bounce back and that’s what the best teams do. You have to show the manager, the staff, the club, the fans that you’re good enough to play here. Even when you’ve had a set-back you have to try and put things right.”

That was the task that Rangers faced on Tuesday night, but it was one that proved beyond them at Ibrox.

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Possession wasn’t a problem, but chances were in short supply as supporters vented their fury.

Clinical strikes from Niall McGinn and Connor McLennan ultimately won it for Aberdeen and few in Light Blue could argue with the outcome.

“I think it’s sore for everyone,” Defoe said. “The lads who have been here for a long time, not just me.

“We believe in the group, we believe like we’re good enough to go on and win things, compete with the top teams.

“It’s a massive football club with the demands to follow. So you have to compete, it’s as simple as that.

“Everyone knows that that. It’s just disappointing and it’s going to take a few days to get our heads around it. It’s a difficult one to talk about.

“Sometimes you don’t have to play well. The main thing was to win the game. That early goal was a big disappointment. But that said, there was still a long way to go in the game.

“We played some good stuff and we hit the post. On another day that goes in. In the second half we wanted to come out quick and get a goal back.

“That would’ve changed the whole game. I think they would’ve panicked a bit if we’d managed that. But it wasn’t meant to be.”