THE theory goes that the points on the board are more valuable and more important than the games in hand. Rangers can now put that logic to the test.

When Steven Gerrard’s side left the park after seeing off St Mirren on Sunday, they would hardly have expected to end the evening two points ahead of Celtic in the Premiership title race. And they would certainly not have foreseen the chance to extend that advantage to 11 by the time their Old Firm rivals next play a domestic fixture.

That is the opportunity that presents itself for Rangers now, though, and they made no mistake with the first stage of it by beating St Johnstone at Ibrox. Much like that win over the other Saints at the weekend, this was ultimately a straightforward affair.

First half goals from Borna Barisic and Ryan Kent had them well on their way. A Joe Aribo header just after the break made it three goals and three points on the night for Rangers.

Fixtures like this have proven so costly for Rangers over the previous two campaigns. If they can continue to take care of them in such a manner, it certainly bodes well for a more prolonged and serious title challenge.

A trip to Livingston awaits on Sunday for Gerrard’s side before Kilmarnock visit Ibrox. It is only after those games are played that Celtic will return to action away to Dundee United.

At Parkhead, all Neil Lennon can do is sit and watch on. He will rue by the day the actions of Boli Bolingoli and hope that the self-inflicted damage doesn’t prove too costly for Celtic.

Rangers just have to continue taking care of business and that is what Gerrard’s side did here. The 40-year-old is unlikely to look too far ahead or think what might be in the coming days but he would have been fully aware of the importance of this fixture.

It was surprising, then, to see Rangers start as sluggishly. The first half performance was far from what was expected but they would lead by two well-taken goals.

A shot on target hadn’t been registered by Gerrard’s side before Barisic curled home a terrific free-kick from 20yards, while Elliot Parish wasn’t exactly being kept busy before picking the ball out his net for the second time.

St Johnstone were entitled to feel somewhat hard done by at that stage. The visitors had carved out the first chance of the evening when Jon McLaughlin saved smartly from Callum Hendry and they would compete well under the guidance of Callum Davidson.

Nothing could be done about the exquisitely struck effort from Barisic, while the move that lead to Kent doubling the advantage was full of purpose and precision. Aribo and Ianis Hagi were involved, while Barisic provided the cross for Kent to convert and ensure the job was almost done for Rangers after just 45 minutes.

When Aribo made it 3-0 with a glancing header at the near post shortly after the restart, that was very much that. Harsh, perhaps, on St Johnstone given their effort but Rangers were more effective in the crucial moments and had earned the right to control what was left of proceedings.

There was an Ibrox debut for Kemar Roofe and second outing for Cedric Itten, while Scott Arfield and Steven Davis were also introduced as Gerrard took the chance to rest some legs and get match minutes into others. Making all four switches at once was a show of the strength on the Rangers bench and both of Gerrard’s two new signings showed glimpses of what they will bring to the side even in difficult circumstances to make an impact.

A header from St Johnstone substitute Isaac Olaofe was saved by McLaughlin from point-blank range. It was one of the rare occasions that the keeper was involved as Rangers cruised over the winning line and – with Allan McGregor watching on from the sidelines - it was as close as the visitors would come as another clean sheet was earned for Rangers.

That fact would round off the evening nicely for Gerrard. Now he just needs his side to replicate this same outcome time after time to keep putting the points on the board.