MOST football managers would be seriously satisfied if their team had just beaten the third best side in the country by five goals and gone five points clear of their nearest challengers at the top of the league table.

But was Philippe Clement completely content with Rangers' mauling of Hearts at Ibrox on Saturday evening? 

Clement was certainly delighted that his charges, who had moved to the top of the cinch Premiership for the first time in two years six days earlier with a triumph over St Johnstone in Perth, had won such an important game in such an impressive fashion.

However, as they celebrated together in the dressing room afterwards, the Belgian was not slow to point out aspects of the display which he had not been entirely happy with and pinpoint areas where he thought they could improve. 

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“We were just talking about it in there,” said centre half Connor Goldson as he looked back on his 300th appearance for the Glasgow club. “We haven’t really enjoyed a game of football at home for quite a while. That was the perfect answer.

“But in the last 30 minutes it turned into a bit of a basketball game. We were trying to score at every opportunity when we got the ball. I think we should have controlled the ball better. We gave away too many shots in the last half an hour of the game.

The Herald: Rangers winger Oscar Cortes celebrates scoring against Hearts in a cinch Premiership match at Ibrox“Really, we should have enjoyed having the ball and passed it around a little bit more. We gave away too many transitions by not controlling the football enough.

“If we get five the manager wants six, if we get six he wants seven. So it is probably a little bit of that, putting the foot to the gas and scoring even more.

“The demands that he puts on us, not only in games but day by day in training, is the main reason that we’re doing so well. He doesn’t let standards drop in any training session, he wants us to reach a different level to what we are at.

“I think now the boys are really believing that we can. You see the football that we are starting to play, the tempo that we are starting to play at. The fitness is getting higher and higher. It is crazy because it has only been four or five months. I am really excited about where this team and this club is heading.”

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Goldson added: “We’re in a good place, confidence is high. We’re winning games and that breeds confidence. But we’re doing it by working hard and you see in that game the amount of distance the boys are covering in games.

“That’s why we’re winning games of football - through hard work and the tempo we’re playing at, counter-attacking when we’re sitting low. It’s harder for teams to come here with a game plan because we’re scoring different types of goals so long may it continue.

“But we need to keep working hard game by game and day by day and reach an even higher level.”

Having just demolished opponents who had been on an eight game winning and 12 match unbeaten run – Rangers would have won by even more had Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark not produced outstanding saves from James Tavernier, Ridvan Yilmaz, Cyriel Dessers and Fabio Silva during the course of the 90 minutes – Goldson’s words will strike fear into their rivals.

Celtic may have reduced their ancient adversaries’ Premiership lead to two once again yesterday with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Motherwell at Fir Park. But there appears to be very little prospect of the new table toppers slipping up any time soon. The match at the weekend was a serious test of their title credentials. They passed it with flying colours.

Their dominant display was remarkable when you consider that Todd Cantwell, Danilo, Rabbi Matondo and Abdallah Sima, who between them have netted 31 goals in the 2023/24 campaign, are all missing through injury at the moment.

With Ross McCausland, Nicolas Raskin, Kemar Roofe, Fabio Silva and Scott Wright all coming off the bench against Hearts and Leon Balogun, Borna Barisic and Ben Davies not featuring at all, Clement clearly has the strength in depth which he requires to remain competitive at home and abroad in the coming weeks.  

The Herald: Goldson certainly feels the January signings have improved Rangers greatly. With winger Oscar Cortes, midfielder Mohamed Diomande and striker Silva, a trio who all arrived during the window last month, all getting on the scoresheet on Saturday he has a definite point.

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“We knew we needed quality and the squad needed a few more players,” he said. “Look at the squad now, even the five subs we made. We bring on Raskin, Wright, McCausland, Fabi and Kemar. When you can do that after 60, 70, 80 minutes, especially with the tempo we’re trying to play at, it makes a big difference.

“Running wise it is different (under Clement). It is just the way he wants us to play. He wants us to stop counter attacks. If we have got a team on the edge of the box he wants us to push all the way up to the strikers so they can’t get the ball and turn.

“That is what is leading to us keeping more clean sheets – the boys up the pitch are pressing. We are going with them as high as the striker goes. So he just wants to stop transitions, which I think we got caught on a few times at the start of the season. Yeah, it is good, I am really enjoying it.”

Beating fourth-placed Kilmarnock on the artificial pitch at Rugby Park on Wednesday night will not be straightforward for Rangers. They lost 1-0 down in Ayrshire on the opening day of the season back in August. The difference, though, between that team and this one is huge. They are looking more dangerous with every passing week.

And there is no prospect of them growing complacent with Clement driving them forward on a daily basis.