A friendly win over Lokomotiv Trashkent allowed Rangers to build up a head of steam ahead of their return to competitive action. Now they have to remain on the right track this term.

The afternoon was as comfortable as the 6-1 scoreline would suggest for Steven Gerrard’s side. Trashkent may be Uzbek champions but they were brushed aside by the Light Blues.

From the moment Jermain Defoe opened the scoring after 11 minutes, Rangers were always going to win this one with ease. But there were plenty of positives for Gerrard to take as the goals arrived at regular intervals and his squad got some crucial match minutes in their legs at the end of their stint in Dubai.

The Sevens Stadium was about as far removed from Celtic Park as Rangers could have got between their last outing of 2019 and first one of the New Year. It was an important run-out, however, and Gerrard was able to introduce highly-rated prospects Nathan Patterson, James Maxwell and Kai Kennedy into the first team pool.

That certainly bodes well for the longer term, but it is on the next few months that all attentions are focused at Ibrox. It could be a historic and successive time at Ibrox.

Victory over Celtic three weeks ago ensured Gerrard’s side rounded off the first half of the campaign in perfect fashion and they are now just two points adrift of their Old Firm rivals having played a game fewer in the title race.

If Rangers can maintain their form, they will be firmly in the hunt for the silverware. Greg Stewart is confident they can get even better, though.

“It has been a tough week and we hope that it has set us up for a great second half of the season,” Stewart said. “We had a good week off to recover after a lot of games and we are buzzing to be back.

“The message is just to do what we have done all season and keep working on that and keep getting better. We feel that we can keep getting better and we will work hard in training on what we do and what we have been learning all season. Hopefully it can take us to something special at the end of the year.

“We always feel that we can do better and we are working hard every day in training to make that happen and hopefully we can get something special at the end of the season.”

It was to prove a satisfying afternoon for Stewart as he netted twice late on to round off the win and add a shine to the scoreline that was thoroughly deserved on the balance of play.

The game was already won by the time Stewart scored from the spot and then finished neatly with a low strike. There was an edge to proceedings by then as well.

To those that witnessed Trashkent get involved in a kicking match with Aberdeen last term, that was no surprise. It was even less of a shock to Stewart as the tackles started to fly in.

“It was an unbelievable support and we get that week in week out back home,” Stewart said after several hundred Gers fans turned out at this purpose-built rugby sevens stadium on the outskirts of Dubai. “I didn’t expect that but to have that support was great and to give them that result was nice as well.

“It has been a good week of work so it was nice to finish off like that. I have played against them before with Aberdeen so I knew what to expect and I let the boys know.

“I had memories of that game. Sometimes you want that anyway to get something out of the game. It was a good win and a good exercise to play well and get six goals.

“It has been a good week of work and it was great weather for the game as well! We didn’t come here for a holiday, it was putting in the hard work and getting back to business.”

The time in the Middle East has been put to good use by Gerrard and his players and now the Gers must pick up where they left off before the break.

Stewart has three goals in 17 appearances so far this term having played a variety of different roles. Here, he showed that adaptability once again as he lead the line in the second half.

Stewart said: “I have said that since I have come here how difficult it is to get a game because the squad is so good and so big. When you get minutes under your belt, you can only do your best and try and contribute.

“It (his versatility) obviously gives the manager different options and also myself but you just play as needed and as told.

“We have got a lot of squad depth so when you get called upon you have to do your best. It is always good to contribute.

“It is just learning from top players, working with them day in day out and learning from the staff as well. I am learning every day and the facilities and the size of the club says it all. It has been amazing but all that hard work in the first half of the season means nothing. We need to push on now and do as well as we can in the second half.”