PHILIPPE Clement believes the physical challenges which Todd Cantwell was subjected to in the cinch Premiership match against St Johnstone contributed to the injury which is set to sideline the Rangers playmaker for up to a month. 

Clement revealed on Friday that on-form midfielder Cantwell, who has scored three goals since play resumed after the winter break last month, was set to be out of action for “three to four weeks”.

The Belgian felt that referee Matthew MacDermid could have offered the Englishman, who is now a doubtful starter for the Europa League last 16 games against Benfica next month, more protection in the league fixture at McDiarmid Park nine days ago.

He replaced the 25-year-old, who was later seen with an ice pack on his hamstring, with Tom Lawrence after just an hour and had a lengthy chat with the player as he left the field.  

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He stressed that match officials have a responsibility to punish fouls and ensure that Scottish football is an entertaining spectacle for supporters - and admitted he would welcome the chance to hold talks with them and his fellow managers. 

Asked if the treatment that Cantwell had received at the hands of St Johnstone players in Perth had caused his injury, Clement said: “For sure, it will not have helped.

“Todd has made a really positive evolution in that way. His attitude is much better the last couple of weeks. 

The Herald: “Todd’s always been a player who is really good on the ball, but sometimes he’s a little bit too provocative. I’ve spoken with him about that. He’s learned lessons and the moment he started to play more simply, he started to play better too.

“So, for sure, in this game he could have been more protected because there were a few challenges. For sure, I remember one in the midfield where he gets flipped over and for me those are always yellow cards.

“But I am not a referee so for sure I’m not going to go in those discussions because I am a coach, not a referee.”

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Clement added: “I don’t think refs need to protect one player more than the other. I think their job is to follow the rules of the game and to help us have a good product of football. Then that helps so that the game is fluent, that the ball is a lot in play, that there is football. 

“So if there are consecutive fouls, to stop the rhythm, they are the only ones who can stop that and get us the fluent football. In that way referees can help.

“But I don’t think they need to protect one player more than another because that’s not correct, then they start with the wrong mentality towards the game. I will never ask that.

“I think it would be interesting to have a meeting in private with managers and referees to share opinions from both sides.”

The Herald: