Rangers manager Stuart McCall says he has worked hard to restore confidence to the fallen Scottish giants which seems to have paid off as they moved into second spot in the Scottish Championship following a 2-1 win over Heart of Midlothian.
They are undefeated in the second tier since the former Rangers midfielder was appointed by the club’s new board at the beginning of March.
McCall inherited a dressing room that was bereft of confidence following a run of just three wins in 10 matches under interim manager Kenny McDowall and tired of the boardroom battles that have dogged the club in recent years.
But following a stuttering start which saw them draw their first two matches, Rangers have won their last three under McCall, including a 3-0 win away to play-off rivals Hibernian and a 2-1 defeat of champions Hearts on Sunday.
With Hearts cantering to the title, Rangers will have to rely on winning the play-offs if they are to achieve promotion to the top flight next season and McCall knows his side need to continue to build momentum for the campaign’s final run.
“It’s just about getting a bit of confidence and morale. Obviously we didn’t start off great with the two home draws, but I think the victory at Easter Road was huge,” McCall said.
“We all know there are good players in that dressing room and when confidence is low it’s difficult. Now they are playing with their chests out and their chins up and showing what it means to play for the jersey.
“Every one of them to a man, even the lads who are not in the 18 today, are all in that dressing room today celebrating.
“There’s a long, long way to go yet, but it’s pleasing.”
Kenny Miller and Haris Vuckic fired Rangers into a first-half lead before captain Lee McCulloch saw red for leading with his elbow in an aerial challenge with Osman Sow.
Genero Zeefuik pulled one back for Hearts late on, but the ten men held on to inflict only a second defeat of the season on the runaway champions.
Hearts coach Robbie Neilson, who has exceeded all expectations in his first season in charge of the club, was philosophical in defeat.
“We didn’t do enough to win it, but we’ve got to put it in perspective. We’ve had a fantastic season and we’re 23 points ahead,” he said.
“You want to win every game, but sometimes you need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and see how far we’ve come in a year. We’re guaranteed top-level football next year and we’ve got a good group of young players. Today was another good experience for them and it gives us a reality check to where we are as a team.
“We’ve had a great season, but when we go up it’s going to be a whole new ball game. It’s going to be a lot harder and there will be more games like this against good teams and we’ll have to work hard over the summer.”
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