THE next six months will define Jon Flanagan's Rangers career. He can't look beyond Sunday, though.

His appearance against St Mirren at Ibrox was just his ninth of the campaign but he will move into double figures when Steven Gerrard takes his side to Tynecastle.

After that, the future is uncertain for Flanagan. His involvement now depends on how quickly James Tavernier regains full fitness following his appendix operation.

Flanagan could yet end the campaign, and perhaps his Rangers career, with a Premiership medal. Only time will tell how many more games he plays in Light Blue.

“It felt good to be back in the team – good to be back starting a game and great to be back on the pitch," Flanagan said after starting the 1-0 win over St Mirren on Wednesday night. “It’s not been difficult to keep myself motivated. Definitely not. You always have to be ready.

"Things can happen and you see the freak accident with James. We have a big squad and everyone is waiting in the wings just in case.

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“Definitely [it is a big six months for me]. The manager just tells me to go and do what I do every time I play, so I am giving 100 per cent whenever I get on the pitch.

“I would love to be here [beyond the summer]. It’s a great club with great fans. Everything about it great, so I would love to be here.”

The loss of Tavernier wasn't felt on Friday night as Rangers eased into the Scottish Cup fifth round with victory over Stranraer. Youngster Nathan Patterson was handed his debut and equipped himself well in front of an impressed Ibrox crowd.

But it was a different story against the Saints. Flanagan got the nod this time and the overall Gers performance wasn't exactly swashbuckling.

The difference between Tavernier and Flanagan is clear, and Wednesday was another indication of what each brings to Gerrard's side.

“I think so,” Flanagan said when asked if there was pressure on him to match Tavernier’s style at right-back. “I’m a little bit different to James. He is more attacking where I’m probably a bit more defensive.

"We knew St Mirren were going to set up in low block so the manager told me to get forward, to try and get as many crosses as possible in and be a bit more attacking.

"I think I’m more comfortable on the right. I will play wherever the manager tells me to play but I am right-footed and more natural down that side.”

It was Jermain Defoe that scored the only goal at Ibrox as he showed, once again, that he is the perfect man deputise for Alfredo Morelos.

The Colombian will sit out the third and final match of his suspension at the weekend and is likely to then come back into the starting line-up against Ross County. But Defoe, who also scored against Stranraer, has made the most of his chance once again.

“Everyone knows what he is about and the amount of goals he has scored from those types of positions, in and around the box," Flanagan said after the Englishman netted his 16th goal of the campaign.

"He has been great for us this season and hopefully he continues scoring.”

Rangers were thankful for Defoe's predatory instincts as his first half strike proved the difference on the night. It wasn't a classic encounter, but it was job done as Rangers maintained their momentum.

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“We all know our job and what to do,” Flanagan said. “We want to get three points every time we go out on the pitch.

“The fans are right to have their moans and groans but we just have to park that to one side and get the job done. We did that on Wednesday night.

“It can frustrating playing against a low block like they were set up, with ten men behind the ball and looking for a counter. But we have to be good enough to break that down and score the goals.

“We are probably going to be faced with a lot of that in the next few months, so we just have to think of solutions to break it down.

"The manager and staff will be working on giving us the tactics to go and do that.”