RANGERS stayed within two points of their city rivals Celtic at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table with this narrow 1-0 win over stuffy opponents St Mirren at Ibrox tonight.

A first-half Jermain Defoe goal, his 16th of the season, was all that separated the two teams at the end of 90 minutes. It was far closer than Steven Gerrard would have wanted. The home support endured a few anxious moments towards the end.

So what did we learn from events in Govan? Should Rangers have won by a more comfortable margin? Did St Mirren merit a point? And what does it mean for the Scottish title race going forward?

JOB DONE FOR RANGERS

There won’t be many worse games at Ibrox this season than this one. The 49.297-strong crowd didn’t have a great deal to cheer.

Perhaps the fact that the likes of Borna Barisic, Connor Goldson, Ryan Kent and Glen Kamara hadn’t started a competitive match since their win over Celtic at the end of last month had something to do with their flat display.

Steven Gerrard will no doubt be hoping his charges have shaken off the rust and will be firing on all cylinders when they travel to Edinburgh this weekend for what promises to be a far more demanding meeting with Hearts at Tynecastle.

Still, not dropping points is what is most important for Rangers between now and May and they duly recorded the victory they were after. With Ladbrokes Premiership leaders Celtic winning against Kilmarnock down in Ayrshire they remain two points behind their city rivals with a game in hand against St Johnstone to play.

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JERMAIN DEFOE IS A MARVEL

It is easy to see why Steven Gerrard wants to keep his old England team mate at Ibrox when his loan deal from Bournemouth expires at the end of the season even though the striker is now 37.

The forward led the line by himself and didn’t stop chasing down balls or sniffing out scoring chances from kick-off until the final whistle. His first-half goal wasn’t the most spectacular he has netted in his long career. But he showed his reactions are as sharp as ever when he turned a deflected Borna Barisic delivery beyond Vaclav Hladky.

It was his 16th strike of the 2019/20 campaign. Not a bad tally at all for a man who has very much been the second choice to Alfredo Morelos in the last six months. He is an example to all of his team mates, to any professional footballer in fact, and it would be a loss to the Glasgow club if he wasn’t to stay for at least another season.

JON FLANAGAN HAS WORK TO DO TO GET A NEW DEAL

The former Liverpool defender has hardly featured this season due to the form of James Tavernier in his favoured right back berth and Borna Barisic at left back. He turned out for the under-20 team in their Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Cup match against Wrexham back in November to get much-needed game time.

But Tavernier, who underwent a minor procedure on his appendix last week, being out gave Flanagan the chance to show his manager and former team mate Steven Gerrard what he can offer. The 27-year-old is out of contract in the summer and has stated publicly that he is keen to sign an extension.

The Englishman offers less than his compatriot Tavernier going forward. But it was his cross into the St Mirren area the first-half led to Jermain Defoe netting the opening goal. He was comfortable defensively. The fact it was his first start since the Aberdeen at the start of December may have had a lot to do with his subdued showing.

Having come from a Premier League club when he signed back in 2018 Flanagan will be on decent wages. He must show more, starting in the Ladbrokes Premiership encounter with Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday, that he is worth keeping in Govan.

ST MIRREN WERE SUPERB

St Mirren’s slim hopes of recording their first draw against Rangers at Ibrox since 2011 and their first win at the Govan ground since way back in 1992 were dealt a blow early on when their captain Kyle Magennis was stretchered off injured. He was replaced Ilkay Durmus.

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But Jim Goodwin’s team did well. They set up in a 5-4-1 formation and proved difficult for their hosts to break down. Their goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky had some good saves, not least from Ryan Kent in the first-half. But the Paisley club limited the number of shots Rangers had on goal. But their game plan worked to perfection.

Yes, St Mirren didn’t offer much going forward. But if Connor McCarthy had done better when he got on the end of a Cammy MacPherson free-kick into the Rangers box in the 74th minute they could have snatched an invaluable point. The centre half nodded wide.

St Mirren, who have work to do to ensure their top flight survival, may have lost the match and returned home with nothing to show for their efforts, but they can take confidence from their performance and will fancy their chances of getting a result against Aberdeen at home on Sunday.

RANGERS NEED MORE CREATIVITY IN ATTACK

Steven Gerrard has some skilful forwards in Ryan Kent and Joe Aribo. They are both players who can score, or set up one of their team mates with an opportunity, with one moment of brilliance. But do they need more assistance from those around them at times? Are Ryan Jack, Steven Davis and Glen Kamara too similar? It certainly looked that way for spells last night.

Second-half substitutes Sheyi Ojo and Scott Arfield both offered more going forward than many of their team mates in their brief time on the park. Perhaps Gerrard needs to mix his team up a little bit more in future and throw caution to the wind more. Arfield and Ojo did their chances of a start no harm with their contribution to proceedings.