Philippe Clement revealed a specialist is looking into Oscar Cortes’ muscle injury, with no time frame yet for the Rangers winger’s return.

The 20-year-old Colombia international hit the ground running after joining the Light Blues on loan from Lens last month, with the Govan club having an option to buy in the summer.

Cortes scored his first goal for Rangers in the 5-0 thumping of Hearts at Ibrox last weekend but had to come off during the 2-1 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Wednesday night which kept the Light Blues two points clear of Celtic at the top of the cinch Premiership.

The Belgian boss confirmed striker Kemar Roofe and midfielder Ryan Jack would return to the squad for the home game against Motherwell on Saturday, but on Cortes he said: “Oscar will be out, I don’t know how long.

“We are looking into that with the doctor and specialist.

“It is a muscle injury, but I cannot say much more at the moment.

“I don’t want to speak about a half-empty glass.

“I am focused now on the players who are available for this game, because otherwise I would have lost a lot of energy in the last couple of months and that is useless.

“It is a pity for him and the team, yes, it is an opportunity for another player to show it and to do it, it works like that.”

Jack Butland claims Rangers just keeping look ahead to the next challenge after their 2-1 win against Kilmarnock on Wednesday night kept them two points clear of Celtic at the top of the cinch Premiership.

Killie had beaten Michael Beale’s Rangers 1-0 on the opening league game of the season, but found successor Philippe Clement’s Light Blues more robust – eventually.

Danny Armstrong scored with an 11th-minute penalty after his cross had struck the arm of John Lundstram arm before Butland made a great save from Matty Kennedy’s close-range strike early in the second half, which proved pivotal.

Two goals in four minutes – a trademark free-kick from Rangers captain James Tavernier and a Tom Lawrence strike –  made it 11 wins in a row for Rangers to keep them ahead of the Hoops, who demolished Dundee 7-1 at Parkhead.

Butland told Rangers TV that attention turns to Motherwell at Ibrox on Saturday.

He said: “We just keep going. Three points is all that matters at the minute.

“Yes, we’d love to have a clean sheet – penalties is frustrating – but we’re getting the wins and that’s what we need to do.

“Obviously it’s a lot better feeling than it was the last time we came here.

“So we’ll enjoy it, get back to training, recover and look forward to Motherwell at the weekend.

“There’s never any panic, we just remained calm, kept reiterating at half-time why we’re in the position we are in and how we’ve got there.

“And we just continued to do that in the second half, remained calm and in the end we got two brilliant finishes from Tav and Tom and I guess it’s three points that we were after.”

Butland enjoyed his reflex save from Kennedy, diving low to his right to claw the ball away, saying: “It was a huge moment. I think the lad thought he had scored so it’s nice to be able to have that moment. That can sometimes take the wind out of a team’s sails as well.

“It seemed to give us a lift. It could have gone a little bit sideways at that point if that goes in so it was nice to contribute with that and ultimately then set us up for a really big second half.”

It was another huge contribution from set-piece specialist Tavernier, who scored his 20th goal of the season.

“That’s what Tav does,” said Butland. “It’s not easy for someone to step up and take penalties like he does and score goals like he does and especially the free-kicks as well.

“It is something that he works on religiously every day.

“So when you’re a leader like he is, when you play the way he does and when you practice the way he does, those opportunities go in and he earns them and he’s come up with another vital goal for us.”

Philippe Clement claims Rangers were like “Bambi on ice” on the artificial surface at Rugby Park before they held on to top spot in the cinch Premiership with a 2-1 comeback win over Kilmarnock.

On a rain-soaked night, Killie wide-man Danny Armstrong scored from the spot in the 11th minute after a John Lundstram handball.

Gers keeper Jack Butland made a great save from Matty Kennedy early in the second half before a trademark free-kick from Gers captain James Tavernier and a Tom Lawrence strike kept the visitors two points clear of Celtic.

Clement referenced Disney’s animated feature film about Bambi the deer in his post-match analysis.

“Resilience, mentality, solidarity and the quality to adapt,” said Clement, who revealed wide-man Oscar Cortes will be assessed after going off with what looked like a hamstring injury.

“We started the game well with a good set-piece from which we could have scored – but they saved it on the line.

“Had we gone in front it’s a totally different game. But then after 10 minutes you get this penalty against you, which was a frustrating moment.

“You then have an opponent who sits back and waits for your mistakes to make counter attacks and to be dangerous.

“And our tempo was too slow in the first half. We needed some time to adapt because it was a totally different kind of football.

“At moments I felt my players were like Bambi on ice. They had to adapt to that and we spoke about it at half-time.

“After that they were great. We were massive in every sense, the resilience, the tempo, the fighting spirit. This is a major win.”

Clement also believes Rangers should have had a penalty late in the game for a Lewis Mayo hand ball.

He said: “One thing to add, we had a penalty given against us but we could have had an easier last five minutes if we’d also been given a penalty.

“I want to hear the reason why they give the first penalty and the second not. That’s really not clear for me.

“So we go back to the story about handballs. I hope you guys can explain something about that because it was a really weird situation again for me.”

Killie boss Derek McInnes believes individual moments in Rangers’ favour was the difference between the teams.

He said: “Disappointed we never took anything from it.

“But the games comes down to moments. In terms of performance there was nothing between us and Rangers tonight.

“But Jack Butland’s save at 1-0 just confirms how good he is. That’s why he is probably going to the Euros. That was a huge moment for Rangers in the context of the game.

“Tavernier’s free kick at first I thought had gone around the wall and was blaming my goalie and shouting at my goalie coach but the height he got to get it up and over the wall was top class.

“He does that time and time again for Rangers. And for their second goal the ball breaks to Tom Lawrence and it was an unbelievable strike.”

Rangers maintained their advantage over Celtic at the top of the cinch Premiership but only after a hard-fought 2-1 comeback win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

Killie wide-man Danny Armstrong scored from the spot in the 11th minute of an energetic first half and Derek McInnes’ side were worth their interval lead.

The Gers had to dig deep and captain James Tavernier levelled in the 55th minute with a trademark free-kick before midfielder Tom Lawrence netted with a fine finish just four minutes later as the visitors reasserted themselves.

With 10 league games remaining – five before the split – Philippe Clement’s side are two points ahead of Celtic, who demolished Dundee 7-1 at Parkhead to keep hot on the heels of the Govan men.

The visitors had racked up 10 wins in a row with a 5-0 win over Hearts at the weekend, including a 3-1 win over Killie on January 2, the only defeat for the Ayrshire outfit in their last 14 outings.

Clement had noted the vagaries of the artificial surface and again tinkered with his squad to suit, making three changes with Borna Barisic, Ross McCausland and Fabio Silva coming back in while the home side were unchanged.

Silva had the first effort on goal after five minutes, his close-range shot deflected for a corner from which Rangers defender Connor Goldson’s header was pushed behind by Killie keeper Will Dennis.

Liam Donnelly came close with a header at the other end as Killie responded but moments later John Lundstram blocked an Armstrong cross with his arm and referee David Dickinson pointed to the spot.

Armstrong confidently beat Jack Butland with his penalty and yet another upset was on the cards.

Clement’s men appeared ill at ease as the route-one first-half unfolded further and Kilmarnock continued chasing and harrying.

There was some controversy in the 40th minute when Mohamed Diomande appeared to prevent Liam Polworth from cleanly latching on to his short pass, but Dickinson played on and was not required by VAR to check his pitchside monitor, to the ire of the home players and supporters.

Cyriel Dessers and Ridvan Yilmaz replaced Silva and Barisic for the start of the second half – Dujon Sterling would replace McCausland – but Butland soon had to make a fine one-handed save to prevent Matty Kennedy stroking in a second from six yards out.

Kilmarnock paid for that miss after defender Lewis Mayo fouled Lawrence 25 yards from goal, with Tavernier stepping up to send his curling shot past the diving Dennis.

Rain continued to swirl around the ground as Rangers went for the second, which came when Lawrence pounced on a loose ball at the edge of the box and guided his shot low past Dennis and into the far corner for his first goal of the season, sparking wild scenes of delight in the stand behind the goal which housed the visiting fans, some of whom spilled out.

The game had swung towards the rejuvenated Ibrox men and Dessers hit the bar from a Tavernier corner.

In the 70th minute, Oscar Cortes limped off with what looked like a hamstring problem to be replaced by Scott Wright and the game was still in the balance.

Diomande curled a shot past the far post from 16 yards as play sped from end to end and Dessers got tangled up as he tried to capitalise on a mistake by Killie centre-back Stuart Findlay.

Six minutes were added on but there were no more goals which meant a crucial three points for Rangers, but Celtic’s stunning win over Dundee confirmed there is still plenty left in the title race.

Derek McInnes believes Kilmarnock will on Wednesday night face a vastly-improved Rangers team to the one who lost at Rugby Park on the opening day of the cinch Premiership season.

A 1-0 win for the Ayrshire side on August 5 heaped immediate pressure on then Gers boss Michael Beale, who lasted only until October when he was replaced by Philippe Clement with the Light Blues trailing Celtic by seven points at the top of the table.

The Belgian boss has turned Rangers’ fortunes around, bringing the Viaplay Cup to Ibrox and guiding the Govan side to the last 16 of the Europa League where they will play Portuguese side Benfica, as well as overtaking their Old Firm rivals by two points in the league.

Killie themselves are in good form, with their only defeat in the last 14 games coming at Ibrox on January 2, but manager McInnes is bracing himself for a night of “bedlam” when the Ibrox men visit for the second time this season.

He said: “The biggest compliment I can give the current manager is that even with a lot of the players that played that day, there’s far more robustness about Rangers, there is a strength about them, they certainly have the added confidence that winning gives you.

“When maybe the performance that day was a wee bit unsure, there is a certainty about them now. You know what you’re going to get.

“I actually like the way he plays, there is a directness, there is a simplicity, an organisation, you see the detail in their work in and out of possession.

“They don’t think they are anything they are not. They play forward, they ask the question, put balls in the box, take shots on from distance. They work you and you need to be able to stand up to that.

“We’re expecting a tough game but equally, I expect Rangers to get a tough game from us, if we can be anything like ourselves.

“We feel there is a performance in us that can upset Rangers and cause Rangers problems.”

Rangers, who have won nine in a row, scored in the second minute of their commanding 5-0 win over Hearts at Ibrox at the weekend and McInnes expects the start on Wednesday night to be important.

The former Gers midfielder said: “It will be bedlam here, there will be a brilliant atmosphere.

“It is a type of game players want to be involved in and that focuses you, the game demands that and concentration.

“When you are playing against players who want to start quick and come here and flex their muscles, you have to be ready to fight fire with fire and we want to make sure that we try to own that pitch, impose ourselves on the game, like we do any home game.

“Some games are easy to do that, tomorrow night will be a challenge against a strong Rangers team but we have to have the belief going on to the pitch that we are capable of getting a result.

“I know we have the performance in us to win the game and we have to do so much right to make sure that is the case.”

Philippe Clement would welcome an England recall for Rangers goalkeeper Jack Butland but knows Gareth Southgate needs to make that decision.

A Sky Sports report claimed the 30-year-old, who won the last of his nine caps in September 2018, is in contention for the Brazil and Belgium friendlies at Wembley in March ahead of the 2024 European Championships this summer.

Ahead of the cinch Premiership trip to Kilmarnock on Wednesday night – where Gers boss Clement revealed striker Kemar Roofe will not be considered because of the artificial surface – the Belgian said of the Butland report: “I would love that he would be there because he deserves, he is ready in that way.

“If he deserves enough, that is the decision of Southgate of course.

“He (Butland) has been really good for the team although he has had less to do in the last couple of weeks.

“But he keeps the same concentration, the same seriousness and he is important in the dressing room and in training, and he is going to be important in the next couple of weeks and months because we have a lot of games to go and a lot of important games where you need players with personality.”

Derek McInnes’ side have gone unbeaten in seven games in all competitions since losing 3-1 at Ibrox on January 2 and sit in fourth place.

Clement’s team are two points clear of Celtic at the top of the table but he is wary of the Ayrshire side’s form and their artificial surface providing a potential double-whammy to their title challenge.

He said: “It is a difficult challenge and we will approach the game with respect for the opponent but also respect for ourselves, to play our own game although you need to adapt to a totally different kind of football because of the pitch.

“I made the comparison with tennis. Playing at Wimbledon or on a clay court.

“It is a little bit like that, of course a different sport but the ball goes faster (on artificial turf) so you need to be a little bit more precise.

“On a grass pitch when you give a pass it slows down after a while. On artificial, it keeps its speed or goes even faster along the way.

“The ball bounces in a totally different way, also the way of turning, sprinting, stopping – a lot of things that are different but it is what it is.

“It is not easy but we did it before at Livingston and we need to do it again.

“The most important thing is getting three points but it will be a totally different game.

“We are going to go there with full focus but we know it is one of those dangerous moments, it can be a bump on the road.”

Philippe Clement declared Rangers as underdogs for the first time since he became manager after the Light Blues were drawn against Benfica in the last 16 of the Europa League.

The cinch Premiership leaders are scheduled to travel to Portugal for the first leg on March 7 before the return game at Ibrox a week later.

Benfica sit joint-top of the Portuguese Primeira Liga table with rivals Sporting Lisbon, having played a game more.

Clement, who took over the Ibrox hot seat from Michael Beale and who has dragged Rangers from seven points behind Celtic to two points clear of the Hoops at the top of the cinch Premiership ahead of the visit of third-placed Hearts on Saturday, surveyed a difficult but winnable European tie.

“It is a really exciting challenge because it is a very good team,” said the Belgian boss, who confirmed midfielder Todd Cantwell will be out for three to four weeks with a hamstring injury while striker Kemar Roofe returns to the squad after another lengthy spell out with injury.

“I think it will be the first game since I have been here that we have been underdogs in a game. That is the reality.

“I don’t see us as underdogs against Celtic. I see us as two teams at a similar level competing and so that is different to Benfica.

“I saw them last season against my old team Club Brugge and they were very impressive (won 7-1 on aggregate). But it doesn’t mean that we cannot qualify.

“We believe in our qualities and with the mentality that is in this group now, we can beat everybody but we have to be at our top form and we also need to have luck in key moments in the game.

“Of course European nights are important for the club and the stature of the club but you need to be realistic.

“You have to look at your budget, what you spent, the value of your squad and compare that.

“So in that way Benfica are in front of us but there is a really special story developing here and there is a lot of motivation, hunger and desire and with that we can do really amazing things so that is what we are going to try to do in those two games.”

James Tavernier believes Philippe Clement is facing selection headaches after returning Rangers to the top of the cinch Premiership on Sunday.

Amid a busy fixture schedule, the Belgian boss again reshuffled his pack for the tense trip to St Johnstone, this time with five changes.

The 32-year-old Gers skipper scored two late penalties to add to Mohamed Diomande’s first-half opener in the 3-0 win.

Victory moved the Light Blues above Celtic at the top of the table, after being seven points behind their Old Firm rivals when Clement took over from Michael Beale in October.

Substitutes Dujon Sterling and Tom Lawrence won the spot-kicks to allow Tavernier to score his 18th and 19th goals of the season, 120 in total since arriving in Govan in 2015.

With the league, the Scottish Cup and Europa League still available – and the Viaplay Cup already in the Ibrox trophy room – Tavernier spoke about the strength in depth of the Rangers squad.

The full-back said: “It gives us huge confidence because what people don’t see is on the training ground we are all pushing each other and everyone is asking to be in the starting 11 and anybody who is asked to come on the pitch is putting in really good performances.

“So it is a headache for the gaffer to select the XI but anyone he selects is doing a really good job for the team and that is the main thing.

“As the gaffer said, we are creating a story together and we need everyone to chip in until the end of the season.

“It is a great place for the fans and the club.

“We feed off our performances and how well we are playing as a team, not letting teams get a shot on target against us.

“That’s what we aim for – the clean sheets and the variety of chances we are creating now is really pleasing, we are always asking questions.

“The scoreline could have been more and I am delighted it was 3-0, clean sheet and on to the next one. We always had belief in our team, the players that we have.

“The gaffer came in and upped the bar with the way we are playing, the demand that he wants for us all.

“We need to continue, not become complacent and keep demanding because there is still a long way to go in the competitions we are in and we just want to make the fans happy and us happy with our performances.”

Clement talked positively about the leaders he has in the dressing room and Tavernier agrees.

“We have great leaders in the squad,” he added. “We all feed off each other and the manager believes in the leadership and we continue to amplify his message towards the lads.

“It starts every day at training, really pushing our standards but there is no place for being complacent. We need to keep pushing ourselves to be better.”

Tavernier admitted that his goals tally was unthinkable when he arrived from Wigan almost nine years ago.

“Especially as I had only eight or nine goals before I joined Rangers,” he said.

“It’s obviously a great achievement. I just want to keep helping the team and pushing myself and see where it ends when I eventually hang up my boots one day.

“I was delighted with the three points we got on Sunday as well as the clean sheet. They didn’t have a shot on goal, which is the most important thing.”

Philippe Clement spoke about James Tavernier helping him stop the “fire” when he took over at Rangers after the Light Blues went top of the cinch Premiership with a 3-0 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.

Ivorian midfielder Mohamed Diomande opened the scoring in the 37th minute and a late penalty double from skipper Tavernier, which took his Rangers tally to 120, moved Clement’s side two points clear of Celtic with 12 fixtures remaining.

Rangers were trailing their Old Firm rivals by seven points when Clement took over from Michael Beale last October and the Belgian’s first port of call was a chat with the 32-year-old, who arrived at Ibrox in 2015.

Clement, who described Tavernier’s goal tally for a full-back as “crazy”, said: “I am happy with Tav, he was the first player I talked with, that’s normal when you come into a building and you know the fire is going on.

“I wanted to see how to stop it as fast as possible so I wanted all the information, it’s normal to speak first with the captain.

“He was really open and honest about all things in the club, dressing room and himself also.

“He feels good also, there is a divided leadership with several players who take responsibility but they have a really good connection together.

“If you’re all alone you can be alone in the desert, now he has a few lieutenants around him that help also and are very influential. It’s important to have that.

“If I see how they are playing now compared to four months ago we cannot speak about a beginning because that was the beginning. There is a lot of room for progression.

“It’s clear they all are growing in these past couple of months without exception.”

St Johnstone were still in the game until the 79th minute when veteran defender Andy Considine fouled Rangers substitute Dujon Sterling inside the box and although referee Matt MacDermid did not point to the spot at first, when he was asked to view the pitchside monitor, he awarded the penalty and Tavernier gave keeper Dimitar Mitov no chance.

Then Rangers substitute Tom Lawrence’s shot struck the arm of Luke Robinson, who had spun in the air and had his back to goal inside the box.

After consulting his pitchside monitor again, MacDermid again pointed to the spot and this time Tavernier sent it high into the other corner.

St Johnstone manager Craig Levein’s first remark in the post-match press conference was “that’s VAR 8-0 up on us now” and on the second penalty decision, the former Scotland boss said: “It’s unbelievably unfair. When you spin your arm comes out.

“I don’t know how you are supposed to keep your arm in like that when you are spinning. The referee hasn’t seen it and it’s the people in the booth that call it.

“It’s these guys in the booth making calls that are baffling at times. We didn’t lose the game just because of VAR today, but it certainly made life much more comfortable for Rangers and took some of our energy away after they were awarded a couple of goals.

“I don’t know what the best (handball) rule is to have – but could we have one that applies to everybody? That would be nice.

“Supporters come along and pay their money. They have to sit for five minutes with a feeling of dread in their stomach but everybody knows what’s going to happen.

“The referee’s going to make whatever decisions has been made in the booth. The referees aren’t really refereeing the game anymore – maybe they should just get half their money.

“It’s quite depressing sitting here every week and talking about stuff that should be helping but isn’t.”

Philippe Clement wants regular meetings with referees to foster a better understanding between officials and managers.

The Rangers boss was speaking the day after 13 decisions were deemed wrong by the Scottish Football Association’s VAR independent review panel during the second round of cinch Premiership fixtures – a steep rise from the three errors reported from the opening round of games.

The Belgian was not too concerned about the apparent mistakes made by officials so far this season ahead of the trip to St Johnstone on Sunday but outlined his hopes for the future.

Clement, who has picked up three yellow cards since taking over the Ibrox hot seat in October, the most recent in the 3-1 win over Ross County at Ibrox on Wednesday night which took his side level on points with leaders Celtic, believes that more dialogue away from the “tension” of matches would help the game in general.

“Transparency is good and if faults are made there is communication and we can learn lessons from that,” said the former Genk, Club Brugge and Monaco boss, who revealed Rabbi Matondo will miss this weekend’s game with a small muscle injury. “It is the same for me if I make mistakes.

“I think it very important for the game of football that there is transparency and communication and I think it is important that there can be more communication between referees and managers a few times a season, say two or three times a season, outside of the games.

“We did it in Belgium once or twice and it was really interesting because it is a different relationship within the games. There is always a lot of tension and everybody is really focused on their job.

“But I think it is important to have good communications and see each other in a different way sometimes and I think it can be interesting for Scottish football.

“It can be interesting to have good discussions about the game of football, the rules and the things that happen in the months before, discussions in a good way, that there is no misunderstanding or less misunderstanding and that everybody can have their view on things and with this we can have a better product.

“And I mean both sides; managers can talk about things that happened in games that we didn’t understand because we need to explain to our players why decisions are made and also the referees can talk about the actions in the games and also maybe about the behaviour of managers.

“I was also a bit too temperamental in the last game and I kicked away a bottle of water and I got a yellow card which I understood afterwards.

“If we can have open discussions, we as managers can learn, me in the first instance.”

Scottish referees chief Crawford Allan welcomed Rangers manager Philippe Clement’s “very helpful” backing of match officials after the VAR independent review panel claimed there had been a sharp increase in wrong decisions.

The IRP judged that 16 key match incidents (KMIs) have reached an incorrect outcome since the start of the season- with 13 of them coming in the second full round of cinch Premiership fixtures.

Rangers had made a request to the Scottish Football Association that Willie Collum be excluded from any involvement in any Gers match following a non-penalty incident in the Old Firm game at the end of last year.

Celtic full-back Alistair Johnston handled the ball inside his own penalty area at Parkhead under pressure from Gers attacker Abdallah Sima.

The IRP claimed indeed that Collum should have recommended an on-field review for a potential penalty but noted that the offside ruled that the decision not to award the spot-kick was ultimately correct.

Ahead of Collum taking charge of rangers’ cup tie with Ayr last weekend, Clement dismissed notions that any referee is “not neutral” and vowed to leave the past behind as he noted that he makes mistakes “every day probably”.

Allan, head of referee operations at the SFA, said of Clement’s support: “That was very helpful. That comment was very supportive and I know it was well received by the referees.

“I think that’s what we should be doing, we should be focusing in on the positive.

“I have seen other recent appointees to Scottish football, managers, saying that the initial experiences of Scottish referees are positive, so long may that continue.”

Allan was keen to stress that there was no chance that Collum would have been taken off Rangers duties.

He said: “Every referee will get considered for every match which is at their experience level. I will reiterate that, the Scottish FA will appoint referees to matches as they see fit.”

Among the 13 decisions that the IRP questioned  this time around were two penalties for Rangers  – one given for a challenge on Ross McCausland at Livingston and against Sima against Dundee at Ibrox – and the one awarded against Light Blues defender John Souttar against Kilmarnock.

It was also claimed that the yellow card initially handed out to Rangers midfielder Jose Cifuentes against Dundee in December should have been sufficient.

Cifuentes was initially booked by referee Kevin Clancy for a challenge on Amadou Bakayoko but that was upgraded to a red following a VAR review.

Asked if the rise in wrong calls from the perspective of the IRP was a concern, Allan said: “We see it as realism. Football is subjective. We accept the view of the independent review panel and we think they have a role to play in assisting us to ensure we are not seen to be marking our own homework.

“In terms of the numbers, we look at the reviews and types of incidents and we have got a heck of a lot more right.

“We have literally got hundreds correct and Scottish football has a habit of focusing in on the tip of the iceberg when we have a huge iceberg below which no-one really bothers about because we get it right.

“In the hundreds of potential reviews that we have had this year, we are in the same percentage areas as other countries.

“It is something we won’t lose sight of but we will continue to develop our referees and support them.”

Cyriel Dessers spoke of a growing “connection” with James Tavernier after the Rangers skipper set him up for a double in the 3-1 cinch Premiership win over Ross County on Wednesday night.

The Gers striker latched on to a pass from Tavernier after only five minutes at Ibrox to lob Staggies goalkeeper George Wickens and get the home side off to a flying start.

Philippe Clement’s men required a three-goal win against second-bottom County to go above leaders Celtic but they passed up several chances to stretch their lead – Dessers hit the post with one attempt – before Simon Murray levelled against the run of play.

Dessers grabbed his second from a Tavernier cross just before the break but there were more opportunities passed up in the second-half before defender John Souttar headed in a third, again from a delivery from the Ibrox captain, in the second of seven added minutes

Despite 23 shots on target, Rangers could only finish the game with three goals and although they moved level with Celtic on 61 points and on goal difference, they have scored four goals fewer to keep them second.

Dessers, who has now scored 14 goals this season, noted the contribution of the Light Blues’ right-back, saying: “It’s the small things, sometimes we just need eye contact to know what we’re doing.

“That’s the connection you work on in training and games and obviously, those things were not there in August or September, these things are growing and these goals are a good example but also it happened in December.

“Tav gets the balls there  – it’s the job of the striker to finish them.”

Rangers were seven points behind Celtic last October when Clement took over from Michael Beale but the Belgian boss has rejuvenated the club.

Clement has already brought the Viaplay Cup back to Ibrox and the Light Blues are in the last-16 of the Europa League.

Rangers have won seven in a row since the winter break and as the chase of Celtic in the title race continues – and the Gers take on Hibernian in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup – Dessers looked forward with optimism as he noted the appreciation of the fans who are becoming increasingly excited about their side’s performances.

He said: “The team and me are in a good place.

“Everyone is scoring and contributing and you also feel the atmosphere, especially in the last games, it’s becoming a little extra compared to the games before.

“We as players feel that as well. That’s really positive, a huge thing which can be a boost for the next 13 games in the league and hopefully that can make the difference.

“Obviously it is a good feeling to get recognition from the fans, it means I have been doing things well.

“Especially for a striker, it’s all in the package of the team.

“It’s a nice feeling and I think there is a really positive vibe in the stadium and the training ground.

“We’re in a good place and want to keep this going. Not just in the locker room but with the fans and we are on a good way with that.”

Philippe Clement will look to focus on finishing after Rangers missed a host of chances in their 3-1 win over Ross County at Ibrox.

The Gers had to win by three clear goals to leapfrog Celtic at the top of the cinch Premiership and it looked on when striker Cyriel Dessers opened the scoring after five minutes.

The Light Blues struck the post twice but the second-bottom Dingwall side, with Don Cowie in charge for the first time, levelled in the 25th minute with a Simon Murray strike.

Dessers grabbed his second just before the break but there were more opportunities passed up in the second half before defender John Souttar eventually headed in a third in added time.

Rangers drew level with Celtic on 61 points and on goal difference, but they have scored four goals fewer so remain second.

Boss Clement, whose side were seven points behind Celtic when he took over last October and have won seven in a row since the winter break, said: “I think for sure in my period, but also all season, it’s our game with the most shots on target and 23 on target.

“I see a team growing week by week, month by month.

“We had wave after wave of attacks, good possession play, good runs together, good tempo, good shot.

“But we also had a goalkeeper on the other side (George Wickens) who maybe had an evening of his life and a few times luck also on his side.

“It could’ve been much more. But of course, as a manager you need to be happy, although I’m not so fast happy, with a 3-1 victory.

“I cannot ask more of my players than what they are doing now.

“I think every supporter who was in the stadium, and was there four months ago, they would say, ‘what a difference for all the players on the pitch’.

“I think our finishing was also not that bad. But it was about centimetres.

“But we can do better, raise our level to be more precise. But those are the next steps to take. The team has already taken a lot of steps.

“You cannot ask much more of the players where they are now in the period we’ve been working together.”

Cowie, in charge for the first time following the departure of Derek Adams last week, was pleased with his side’s spirit but admitted that they carried some luck.

“We were fortunate because Rangers were that good,” he said.

“But a club like Ross County coming to the big grounds need fortune and we got that at times.

“Whether it was finishing or very good goalkeeping we just have to move on from it in terms of what I want.

“I saw a team putting their bodies on the line to stop the ball going into the net.

“It was a difficult night. I thought Rangers were excellent from the get go.

“They came out the traps really quick and it was a challenge for the players.

“The positive for me was that they stuck at it, playing against a level of team in great form.

“Going into 90 minutes it’s 2-1 and that’s all I asked for before the game. Try to stay in it before the game and that’s what they did.”

Rangers moved level on points with cinch Premiership leaders Celtic with a 3-1 win over Ross County but their profligacy prevented them going top.

The Light Blues took the lead in the fifth minute through striker Cyriel Dessers and the home side then hit the woodwork twice amid an onslaught.

However, the second-bottom Staggies, with Don Cowie in charge for the first time following the departure of Derek Adams last week, unexpectedly levelled in the 25th minute with a Simon Murray strike.

Dessers grabbed his second in first-half added time to placate the Gers fans frustrated at the missed chances but there were more opportunities passed up in the second half before defender John Souttar eventually headed in a third late on.

After eventually catching up on fixtures with Celtic, the Govan side are level on points and goal difference with the Hoops but have scored four fewer than their Old Firm rivals.

Another huge crowd rolled up to Ibrox knowing a three-goal win against a club who had never beaten Rangers in 23 attempts would see the lead at the top change hands.

Philippe Clement made seven changes from Saturday’s 2-0 Scottish Gas Scottish Cup win over Ayr United.

Ridvan Yilmaz, John Lundstram, Tom Lawrence, Ross McCausland, Todd Cantwell, Rabbi Matondo and Dessers all returned while Cowie brought in Eamonn Brophy, Michee Efete, Ryan Leak, Josh Reid and Victor Loturi.

A sense of expectancy hung heavy in the air.

Dessers struck early, taking a pass from captain James Tavernier and fending off the attention of defender Leak before lobbing the ball over stranded Staggies keeper George Wickens and the Light Blues were up and running.

Wickens soon had to tip a powerful shot from Tavernier past the post for a corner, which the startled Dingwall side survived.

In the 10th minute Dessers latched on to a raking pass from left-back Yilmaz and beat Wickens only to see the ball rebound off the post.

Then Matondo raced onto a defence-splitting pass from midfielder Lundstram and curled the ball past the far post before Wickens tipped a shot from the wide man onto the bar and over.

Lawrence, Souttar, Tavernier and Dessers had further efforts of various quality before Murray stunned the home fans into silence with a confident volley from six yards from a delicious Brophy cross.

The mood inside the stadium darkened.

The Gers crowd looked on in astonishment as Leak stopped Dessers’ close-range shot after Wickens had spilled a Cantwell drive but the enigmatic striker made up for it by heading in a Tavernier cross seconds before the break which changed the atmosphere again.

January signing Oscar Cortes, the 20-year-old Colombian signed on loan from Lens, replaced Matondo at half-time and in the 52nd minute had a decent drive parried clear by the over-worked Wickens, who soon tipped a long-ranger from Cantwell past the post.

The pressure on the County goal was relentless but just after the hour-mark the Gers fans were relieved to see Efete head a County corner over the bar when he should have worked keeper Jack Butland.

Wickens made further saves from Lundstram, Lawrence and Dessers before the latter was replaced by Portuguese striker Fabio Silva.

In the 74th minute Cortes missed the target from 12 yards and, amid a myriad of attempts on the County goal, Wickens denied Cantwell and Cortes again.

But in the second of seven added minutes Souttar headed in a Tavernier cross but there was to be no later drama and the chance to strike a psychological blow was gone.

Philippe Clement insists Rangers can still reach another level as they look to go top of the cinch Premiership against Ross County on Wednesday night.

The Belgian boss took over the Ibrox hot seat last October after Michael Beale departed when the Light Blues fell to third spot, seven points behind leaders Celtic.

They then fell eight points adrift of the Hoops after a 2-1 defeat at Celtic Park in December but had two games in hand.

Rangers have worked their way back into serious title contention and a three-goal win over the struggling Staggies at Ibrox will see them go top for the first time since August of last season.

Clement has already put the Viaplay Cup in the Ibrox trophy room following a 1-0 final win over Aberdeen in December and has guided the Govan side into the last-16 of the Europa League.

However, the former Genk, Club Brugge and Monaco manager was again at pains to stress that short-term achievement is not important, saying: “I will not look at the league table (if we win). No. I will be happy if we win the game, that is the only thing.”

“I am not satisfied, I think there is still a lot of potential to grow,” added the Gers boss, who revealed defender Leon Balogun, who has been fitted with a mask to protect a facial injury, will be assessed with midfielder Ryan Jack dropping out as his game time is managed following his recovery from injury.

“That’s why I am looking forward to having preparation with the team, to really bring them to another level.

“I am convinced it is possible with the players that are in the building now but it is difficult to create that during a season with a game every three days.

“We are growing, we are getting better, I think it is clear to everybody, it is also clear in the data.

“There is more distance run, there are more sprints and more high intensity than a few months ago but we are not at the top.

“It is what you do in training and in games and how you set standards and what you want them to do.

“We are not a reactive team, we are an active team and that’s what we want to see.

“We want to be a dominant team with a lot of movement with the ball and a lot of movement and reaction after losing the ball.

“With that way, naturally the data goes up, it does in every team. But you need a really good preparation to go to the next level.

“At this level now we are pushing things to make it better and I think it will be better at the end of the season – if they keep freshness.

“If I stay with the same squad, playing the same 11/12 players all the time they will be tired at the end of the season, that’s why you also need to keep a good balance.”

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