THERE were still another 32 cinch Premiership matches remaining and 96 points to be played for when Rangers crashed to a 4-0 defeat to Celtic at Parkhead last month,

But, in typically hysterical Scottish football fashion, many of their irate followers declared the title race was over in the aftermath of the defending champions’ one-sided triumph.

Ange Postecoglou’s side had been organised in defence, creative in midfield and mesmerising in attack. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team, meanwhile, were woeful in every area of the park.

It was hard for fans of the Ibrox club to see how their outclassed heroes could prise the Premiership trophy from their city rivals’ grasp come May. 

Some of them even demanded, despite the Europa League finalists securing a place in the Champions League group stages with an away win over PSV Eindhoven the previous week, a change of manager and a squad clear-out.

Rangers, who ended a three game losing run with a narrow 2-1 win over Dundee United in Govan on Saturday, are just two points off top spot now following Celtic’s loss, their first in the league in 364 days, to St Mirren in Paisley on Sunday.

So do their supporters now feel their Dutch coach has the nous needed to land the Premiership this season? Do they have faith that James Tavernier and his team mates can spark a turnarond? Not really. Major doubts persist given their unconvincing recent showings.

Here are five things which would help Rangers get back on top.

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The injury problems which Van Bronckhorst has been wrestling with in recent weeks have been unfairly overlooked by his critics.

He has, with Ben Davies, Filip Helander and John Souttar all out, had to field James Sands out of position as well as teenager Leon King at centre half.

It is harsh to criticise Sands and King for poor performances and results given their lack of experience. But Davies would be a definite upgrade on the duo.

The Rangers manager could, then, do with his summer signing, a £3m acquisition from Liverpool back in July, returning to the fold.

The Englishman, who was on the bench in the Champions League games against Ajax and Napoli as and the Premiership meeting with United, has started just once, against St Johnstone last month, all term.

The 27-year-old is a quality footballer who would shore up what has been a porous rearguard in recent weeks both at home and abroad.

Van Bronckhorst would also benefit from Helander, Ianis Hagi, Alex Lowry, Kemar Roofe and Souttar becoming available in the coming weeks too.

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Antonio Colak and Tom Lawrence have both flourished since arriving in Glasgow. The former took his tally for the season to nine with a double at the weekend while the latter has quickly established himself in the first team.

But Rabbi Matondo, Souttar, who has been out injured and is expected to be sidelined for some time to come, Malik Tillman and Ridvan Yilmaz have failed to make the same sort of instant impression.

Matondo looked great in pre-season and Tillman has had some fine moments. But neither man has done enough. If Van Bronckhorst can help his reinforcements to come good and perform at a high level on a weekly basis it would aid his cause no end.

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Rangers were six points clear of Celtic at the top of the Premiership and in good shape to retain the Scottish title when the winter shutdown started last December.

But the Parkhead club made five new signings, including Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda and Matt O’Riley, during the January transfer window and were the better side by far in the second half of the season. They moved into top spot within a fortnight of play restarting and did not look back.

The Ibrox club can, then, gain the upper hand on their rivals by bringing in some fresh faces. Their recruitment has been underwhelming to say the least. If they can, though, offload players who are surplus to requirements and bring in decent replacements in key positions it could prove decisive.  

At the moment, they are lacking the necessary quality and strength in depth.

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Jon McLaughlin took over from Allan McGregor in goals at the start of the season and justified his selection initially. He certainly produced some important saves in the Champions League play-off second leg match against PSV. But he was poor in the reverses to Celtic and Ajax before he picked up a minor injury.

McGregor came back in against Napoli last week and saved two second-half penalties. He was excellent once again against United. He may be 40 now and might not be as good with the ball at his feet as his club mate and countryman. He was also far from his best at times last season.

Still, he is a big personality who is both a far more commanding presence at the back and a better shot stopper than Mclaughlin. Having an out-and-out winner involved week in, week out could drive up standards in the entire Rangers side.

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Croatian internationalist Colak has been clinical in front of goal in the 2022/23 campaign. The same, however, cannot be said of his fellow forwards. None of them have netted this month.

Alfredo Morelos, who did well against Napoli last week despite not finding the target, becoming available again and Lawrence, who should be fit after the international break, returning should help in the final third.

But Van Bronckhorst requires Scott Arfield, Ryan Jack, Ryan Kent, Matondo, Fashio Sakala, Tillman, Scott Wright to step up and provide a cutting edge in attack – starting in the Premiership encounter with third-placed Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday week.