THE collapses that Rangers have suffered in the Premiership after Christmas in the past two seasons ensured that Steven Gerrard was more considered than cock-a-hoop in the wake of the 2-0 win over Celtic at Parkhead on Saturday afternoon.

Gerrard was certainly pleased at both the dominant display his charges produced and the convincing result.

But he knows from bitter personal experience that avoiding costly slip-ups against lesser opposition is as important to the Ibrox club’s chances of lifting the Scottish title as beating their city rivals this term and urged caution amid the celebrations.

“There is no way we are going to get carried away,” he said. “We need to remain calm and professional.”

His opposite number Neil Lennon would do well to heed his advice in the coming days.

There is always an hysterical overreaction to defeats in Old Firm matches and the response from the defending champions’ supporters at the weekend was nothing short of apocalyptic.

Steven from Coatbridge summed up the mood among many despairing fans when he phoned Superscoreboard on Radio Clyde to let off some steam in the immediate aftermath. “That’s us done,” he said. “I can’t see how we get back. That’s the league gone.”

It was certainly a woeful Celtic performance and a painful loss. But to suggest that a side who are just four points off top spot in the league table with a game in hand and 28 matches still to play was nothing short of absurd.

Scott Brown and his team mates have recovered from derby defeats and prevailed in the Premiership in the previous two campaigns and they can come back once again. “Can they respond?” asked their manager afterwards. “Absolutely. They’ve done it before.”

A sense of perspective is required. Lennon was missing no fewer than six potential starters, Nir Bitton, Ryan Christie, Odsonne Edouard, Hatem Elhamed, James Forrest and Christopher Jullien, due to coronavirus and injury. Furthermore, Albian Ajati and Leigh Griffiths weren’t considered fit enough to start.

Would his team have been so flat if just a few of them were available? It is unlikely. Celtic will improve as the likes of Christie, Edouard, Forrest and Griffiths return. Their bid to make history by completing 10-In-A-Row is far from over.

Still, their display is definitely a cause for concern. Rangers looked sharper, fitter, faster and smarter from kick-off to the final whistle and could have won by a far more convincing scoreline. Lennon must scrutinise what went wrong and determine how to prevent it happening again if his men are to achieve their objective come May.

The Northern Irishman has to make big decisions over personnel and formation to prevent their challenge unravelling.

He certainly did so following the 2-1 loss to Rangers at Parkhead back in December. The switch from a 4-2-3-1 set-up to a 3-5-2 worked wonders when action resumed after the winter break the following month. The defending champions pulled away from their nearest challengers in the league and were 13 points clear when play was suspended in March.

But Celtic have been far from convincing against St Mirren, Riga, Livingston and St Johnstone as well as Rangers in recent weeks playing with three at the back and two up top. Perhaps it needs more games to perfect. Is it time, though, for another rethink?

The system works well when Edouard and Ajeti or Edouard and Griffiths are leading the line. Especially when Christie is playing just off them. But with Patryk Klimala partnering Mohamed Elyounoussi in attack with Olivier Ntcham in the advanced midfield berth? Not so much.

The very fact that Elyounoussi, who has been a consistent performer in the 2020/21 season, has to move up front from his favoured position on the flank in order to get a start is also unfortunate. He is far more effective out wide. Forrest, too, is a better winger than wing back.

Ntcham can, when he is in the mood, be a fabulous footballer. But he has a tendency to blow hot and cold. At the weekend he was utterly anonymous. It may, then, be the moment to give David Turnbull an extended run. He would bring freshness and creativity as well as a cutting edge in the final third.

Then there is the defence. Time will tell if Diego Laxalt, the Uruguayan left back who has been brought in on loan from AC Milan and who made his debut on Saturday, offers more than Greg Taylor. But Lennon needs to field individuals who are suited to the roles they are being asked to fulfil in the 3-5-2.

Vasilis Barkas, too, has much to prove. The Greek internationalist, a £5m acquisition from AEK this summer, has done little to show why he is the better option than Scott Bain to date. It is high time he did so.

Next up for Celtic are AC Milan in the Europa League on Thursday night and then Aberdeen at Pittodrie in the Premiership on Sunday. There is no let up at the top. But the fixtures offer Neil Lennon and his men the chance to show they can once again be the dominant force in the country this term and the Rangers reverse was just a blip.