Steven Gerrard said his Rangers players were unrecognisable following the club’s disappointing 2-1 defeat at Hearts on Sunday.
Rangers hopes of securing the Scottish Premiership title were dealt a huge blow following defeat at Tynecastle, bottom-of-the-table Hearts coming from behind to secure a shock victory in what was Gerrard’s 100th game in charge of the Glasgow side.
Liam Boyce scored the late winner after Steven Naismith had earlier cancelled out Ryan Kent’s opener, and Gerrard admits his ‘rattled’ side were deserved losers after a poor away performance.
“Hearts deserved the win, they’ve rushed us off the pitch, they’ve rattled us,” said Gerrard at his post-match press conference.
“You can lose a football match but when you don’t recognise your players it’s a bit of a shock.”
Rangers had been in a good position heading into their trip to Hearts, but defeat now leaves the club five points behind Old Firm rivals Celtic with just a single game in hand to reduce the deficit.
Gerrard admits the club’s slip-up is a major blow to their hopes of ending Celtic’s domestic dominance and says his side can’t afford too many more ‘blinks’ if they are to remain in the hunt for the title until the season’s end.
“Before today’s game Celtic were waiting for us to blink,” said Gerrard. “Today we’ve blinked big time.
“I’m not sure there’ll be too many blinks from now until the end, so we need to avoid that level of performance from now until the end of the season otherwise we might not be in a title race never mind competing for the league.
“Today, I could pick eight players that I didn’t recognise – who were passengers. In 100 games, I’ve never sat here and said that.”
Despite Rangers dropping points in surprise fashion, Gerrard insists his side ‘have the bottle’ for the title race, and is expecting his side to bounce back when they host Ross County on Wednesday night.
“Yes, I still think we have the bottle,” he said.
“That’s my job now, to reset it and go again. And normally after a set-back we react really well but this is the first set-back I’ve been really disappointed both sides of the game.”