THE result was the only thing that really mattered to Rangers. How Steven Gerrard’s side won this game is irrelevant right now, but the 16-point lead over Celtic certainly isn’t.

Their Old Firm rivals do, of course, have three games in hand in the title race, but the significance of this victory – earned thanks to two goals from Kemar Roofe and one from Cedric Itten – cannot be understated as Rangers recovered from their Betfred Cup defeat to St Mirren with a hugely important Premiership win.

Motherwell had taken the lead through Callum Lang and seemed destined to deny Rangers for so long. In the end, Gerrard’s side found a way to win just when they had to.

Rangers have still to prove that they have the mark of champions this term, but satisfaction can be taken from the way they saw this one out. There will be many more occasions such as this to come, though.

The questions and doubts over the mentality of Gerrard’s players had come to the fore during the post-mortem following the defeat to St Mirren. Until Rangers actually go on and win something, those criticisms and observations are always going to be thrown at a group of players who have promised much yet delivered no silverware thus far.

This was a chance for Rangers to prove a point to those supporters who had started to fear the worst. As they tuned in to watch the action from Ibrox, they would have been expecting a quick, committed and confident start.

Instead, it was Motherwell who took the lead inside just six minutes. Against a side that had set up with such a defensive line-up – the visitors often had two banks of five as the strikers dropped into wide berths in midfield – it was the worst possible situation for Rangers to find themselves in.

Once again, they need not look too far to find the problem. A Stephen O’Donnell cross from the right wasn’t stopped at source and the ball was allowed to travel across the face of Allan McGregor’s goal before being converted at the back post by Lang.

This was now a real test of character. Had Ibrox been packed, the pressure would have been even greater on the shoulders of the Rangers players and they were fortunate they didn’t have to face friendly fire from the stands as well as the Steelmen.

Motherwell were proving difficult enough to overcome on their own merit without the added factor of an impatient home crowd. The visitors wouldn’t create another chance of note themselves before the break, but they were diligent in their work as Rangers were forced to resort to hopeful crosses from the wide areas.

A free-kick from James Tavernier was just too high, while one later from Borna Barisic clipped the top of the wall. The captain really should have scored when his fellow full-back picked him out but there was no finishing touch from a couple of yards out.

When keeper Jordan Archer was called into action, he was more than comfortable. He made a smart save to deny Jermain Defoe as he flicked on a Kent cross, while a stop from a tame Kemar Roofe strike was simple as Rangers had something of a toothless look about them in the final third.

There was no chorus of boos ringing in their ears as they made their way off the park at half-time but that didn’t diminish the importance of Gerrard’s team talk. The next 45 minutes was hugely significant for the Rangers boss and the arrival of Joe Aribo in place of Glen Kamara was the first throw of the dice from Gerrard.

It was Aribo who would present Roofe with the first real chance of the second half as Rangers finally got in behind Motherwell. From a tight angle, the Roofe was denied by Declan Gallagher and the defender made an even more impressive block minutes later just as Defoe pulled the trigger from close range.

Gerrard also introduced Ianis Hagi by that stage and Rangers continued to dominate possession. There was no sense of panic just yet, but every glance at the clock made the situation more serious as Motherwell continued to look compact and comfortable with their backs-to-the-wall approach.

With 17 minutes remaining, they were finally breached. The cross, from Tavernier this time, wasn’t cleared and Kent kept it alive before Roofe converted from close range, firing the ball high into Archer’s net to give Rangers hope just as it seemed to be fading.

In the end, their perseverance would pay off. It had been a day to be patient, to keep confidence in what they were doing, and the rewards came late for Rangers.

A Tavernier corner caused confusion in the box as Filip Helander got a touch, but it was Itten that got the important one as he knocked home from just a couple of yards out. His third goal of the season against Motherwell was, by some way, the most important of his Ibrox career.

There was still time for Roofe to double his tally and add a shine to the scoreline that never looked like being there. His finish from six yards was emphatic.

It made the afternoon look far more comfortable than it was for Rangers. One unbeaten run may have ended in midweek, but this must now be the start of another.