MOMENTUM can take weeks to build but just days to lose. Having suffered that very fate 12 months ago, Rangers cannot afford a repeat this time around.

Steven Gerrard’s side went into the winter break last season on the high of Old Firm victory and the feelgood factor would carry them through the first weeks of the New Year.

Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe joined the Gers squad at their training base in Tenerife and the stage, it seemed, was set for a title fight that had the potential to go down to the final fixtures of the campaign.

Jordan Jones completed a pre-contract to confirm his move from Kilmarnock, while Glen Kamara signed a similar deal to leave Dundee. That switch would later be brought forward by six months as Rangers agreed a £50,000 move that looks more of a bargain every time the Finnish internationalist steps onto the park these days.

By the time Kamara arrived at Ibrox, Gerrard’s side had already suffered a major setback, though. It didn’t cost them the title, but the optimism levels undoubtedly took a hit at Rugby Park.

The meeting with Kilmarnock shouldn’t have been Rangers’ first match of 2019 but the late postponement of their Scottish Cup tie at Cowdenbeath denied Gerrard’s side a run-out before they returned to Premiership action. The frozen Central Park pitch was a far cry from the facilities in sun-drenched Tenerife and the correct decision was made not to play the fourth round fixture at the first attempt.

It ensured, though, that Gerrard’s side would go nearly four weeks between Premiership outings and when they did get back into action they would suffer what was a familiar stumble as Kilmarnock left Rangers defeated and deflated.

The points dropped that night were ultimately not the difference in the title race but it felt like a defining fixture for Rangers. It was the kind of result that Gerrard’s side would record too often as his first campaign ended in disappointment.

It put Rangers on the back foot and another two points were lost the following month – after a Scottish Cup stalemate with Kilmarnock – as St Johnstone denied Gerrard’s side at Ibrox. By then, the title was sought more in hope than expectation.

It was the run in March that would cost Rangers the dearest, though. Denied at Pittodrie in the Cup, Gerrard’s side would then lose at Ibrox a fortnight later.

Hibernian came from behind to snatch a draw at Easter Road, Kilmarnock frustrated Ibrox once again and Celtic earned Old Firm revenge at Parkhead to all-but win eight-in-a-row.

That is the kind of spell that Rangers had to avoid in the first half of the campaign and, having done so, they can now head into the coming weeks and months with confidence. The silverware is in their sights once again.

The way they responded to the setbacks at Pittodrie and Hampden was as impressive as it was encouraging and winning at Celtic Park was a real statement of intent from Gerrard’s side. The celebrations from the manager and his players reaffirmed how important the three points were, but they were also an indication that they know they can win the title this term.

Having used recent days to recharge and regroup either on holiday or at home, Rangers will meet up once again on Monday for their trip to Dubai. The Gers will use the Nad al Sheba Sports Complex as they get back down to work and a bounce game at the end of the week will ensure Gerrard’s side won’t be caught cold when they return from the sun.

Celtic will also train at the same facility – used by the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Juventus and AC Milan in recent times – over the coming days but the dynamic is very different for Neil Lennon and his players as they press the reset button after their Old Firm defeat.

The title will not be won or lost over the course of a few days of warm weather training but the time in Dubai is important for Gerrard as he reaffirms the messages and refocuses minds. The 39-year-old knows as well as anyone that nothing has been achieved yet.

There are unlikely to be new faces joining up with the Gers during their time away from Glasgow and those that Gerrard has put his faith in so far this term will be tasked with seeing his side over the line in the league. The Scottish Cup, which starts with the visit of Stranraer in the first game back, remains a priority and the Europa League tie with Braga is certainly winnable.

The Premiership is the one that really matters, the one that must be won and the bounce from Parkhead must now launch Rangers into a run that could be defining.

Having come through a potentially ruinous December with minimal damage, Rangers now have just two away games – at Tynecastle and Rugby Park – before they return to European action on February 20.

Maximum points will be targeted against St Mirren, Ross County, Aberdeen, Hibernian and Livingston. If achieved, it would be a real marker from Rangers – who still have a game in hand against St Johnstone to be pencilled into the calendar - and the onus would be on Celtic to match the run to maintain their two point lead.

It is a feat Gerrard’s side are certainly capable of in terms of quality. Their mentality will be tested as the weeks elapse but few weaknesses have been shown in that regard thus far.

Once again, the momentum is with Rangers after an Old Firm victory. This time, though, they are better equipped to make the most of it and ensure the New Year is indeed a happy one at Ibrox.