A FEW weeks ago, I suggested that April could be the cruellest month for Rangers. And so it has proved, in the cinch Premiership at least.

But is Philippe Clement surveying a waste land of a season now?

Failure to win in the previous three Premiership fixtures has put a significant dent in his team's title aspirations, but the Ibrox side remain just three points behind Celtic with a game against their rivals to go, and a quirk of the Scottish treble winners’ campaign to date should give the Belgian and his players plenty of encouragement that they can resurrect their challenge.

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Failure to win the third derby of the season at Ibrox recently certainly damaged their overall prospects, but how it all unfolded should come as more of a warning to Celtic supporters who might have the champagne on ice already.

As Rangers followed up their derby salvation with defeat to Ross County in the Highlands and a blunt goalless draw in the rearranged fixture at Dens Park against Dundee, now all Celtic need to do to keep their grip on the Premiership trophy is win the rest of their matches. In fact, they can win the remaining fixtures against the other four teams in the top six, lose the final league derby at Celtic Park, and still pip their rivals to the flag on goal difference. It’s all over, then?

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Well, April was gearing up to be the cruellest of months for Rangers after that hat-trick of dispiriting results on league duty, but as the month headed into injury time, a relatively straightforward 2-0 semi-final victory over runaway Premiership third force Hearts put a more positive complexion on things.

In many ways, Celtic’s encounter at Hampden the day before was an illustration of their entire campaign, and one which should send shudders down the Parkhead faithful’s spines even when they consider the commanding position their team currently holds.

Having gone behind to Bojan Miovski’s early goal for Aberdeen, Celtic went in level at half-time thanks to Nicolas Kuhn’s equaliser and substitute James Forrest made an immediate impact after coming on after an hour to put the cup holders in front. Aberdeen looked out on their feet and Celtic were coasting to yet another end-of-season showpiece occasion. But no, not this season. As the clock went red, the Dons’ own super-sub Ester Sokler nodded home a leveller at the back post to force extra-time.

Then it all happened again during the additional 30 minutes. After the inspired Forrest released Alistair Johnston on the right flank, the full-back cut the ball back to Matt O’Riley inside the penalty area and the midfielder, as he has done so often this season, produced a composed finish to send the majority of the 50,000 inside the national stadium into raptures. Celtic had got over the line. Better late than never.

But then it happened again. A ball hung up at the back post by Junior Hoilett in the final minute of the match and suddenly, somehow, Aberdeen were level again. It was unbelievable, yet somehow entirely believable. Even during the ensuing shootout, Celtic seemed to bring jeopardy on themselves with goalkeeper Joe Hart’s election to take the decisive fifth penalty almost backfiring horribly when the Englishman hit a post with his effort, only to become the hero afterwards by saving from Killian Phillips to send Brendan Rodgers’ side into the final.

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Rodgers was probably the least surprised person in Mount Florida at how things unfolded, however. The Northern Irishman will be acutely aware that he has seen this happen all too often this season already.

In their ill-fated Champions League campaign, Celtic dropped points from positions of strength on two occasions which could have altered their fortunes in Group E significantly. Against Lazio at Celtic Park back in October, Rodgers' side thought they had snatched a rare group-stage victory when Luis Palma scored to make it 2-1 with minutes to go, only for the effort to be ruled out for offside after a VAR review. Up stepped Lazio substitute Pedro deep into injury time with a winner for the Romans. In their next European fixture at home to Atletico Madrid, the Parkhead side twice led the LaLiga outfit but could not hold on for a victory in the 2-2 stalemate.

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In the Premiership this term, Celtic have drawn six and lost three of their 33 matches to date as they head into the final straight with their first post-split fixture against Dundee at Dens Park on Sunday.

Of those nine occasions where the Scottish champions have dropped points this season, however, this worrying pattern persists. First up was the 1-1 draw with Motherwell at Celtic Park at the end of November. David Turnbull (remember him?) appeared to have sealed the points from the penalty spot with just four minutes remaining, but Jon Obika levelled in injury time.

A fortnight later, Celtic squandered all three points at Rugby Park despite O’Riley having given them the lead in the first half against Kilmarnock. A Nat Phillips (remember him?) own goal put Derek McInnes’s surprise troops level before Matty Kennedy sealed a barely believable second victory of the season over the treble winners (Killie dumped Celtic out of the Viaplay Cup in the second round in August) with just three minutes to go.

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In the new year, Celtic dropped further points at home to the Ayrshire side at Celtic Park, David Watson popping up, you guessed it, in injury-time to deliver a now familiar blow after Kyogo Furuhashi’s first-half opener.

Then, most recently, the 3-3 draw at Ibrox was an all-too familiar tale. Celtic were ahead and cruising at half-time through Daizen Maeda’s first-minute goal and another O’Riley’s strike, only to let their rivals back into the contest after the break when James Tavernier notched from the penalty spot. When substitute Abdallah Sima levelled with just four minutes to go, it looked like another airing of the same old show from Celtic, only for Adam Idah to score a certain winner just a minute later. Job done. League over? No, yet again Celtic offered up a lifeline to their opponents in injury time as Rabbi Matondo clinched a precious leveller. Had Celtic held firm on that occasion alone, they would be six points clear at present rather than a precarious three as it stands.

Why precarious? Celtic clearly have previous for blowing up from commanding positions this season. The job for Rodgers now is crystal clear, but as Celtic have shown on several occasions this term, it’s not over until it’s over. Against Aberdeen at Hampden they just about got over the line. But as the clock turns red on the Premiership season, Clement and his Rangers players should have plenty of hope that they will throw up something in the final throes.