Shut­ting out ri­vals is key to win­ning ti­tle, says Wil­son

De­fender hopes can build an­other run of clean sheets, start­ing in Dum­fries


BUILD­ING from the back has been the Rangers way since Mark War­bur­ton im­ple­mented his Ibrox blue­print in the sum­mer. Now it is the de­fen­sive line that is lay­ing the foun­da­tions for a shot at the Cham­pi­onship ti­tle this term.

Af­ter sprint­ing out of the blocks and hit­ting the goal trail in the open­ing months of the cam­paign, Rangers have re­cently found the go­ing tougher in the fi­nal third of the pitch. It has been their abil­ity to keep clean sheets rather than outscore teams com­fort­ably that has helped edge them closer to the top flight in re­cent few weeks.

Rangers have drawn 1-1 at Al­loa and beaten Kil­marnock 2-1 on their two out­ings on plas­tic pitches in the last seven days and will take to a third syn­thetic sur­face when they face Queen of the South to­mor­row.

“If you look at the last two games we’re dis­ap­pointed be­cause we’ve con­ceded a cou­ple of goals but be­fore that we [had] four clean sheets in a row, which is great,” Danny Wil­son, the Rangers de­fender, said. “That comes from play­ing to­gether more and strik­ing up a part­ner­ship to­gether. We do a lot of work on it and an­a­lyse our per­for­mances to see why we’ve con­ceded a goal or why we gave away a chance. But it’s been go­ing well. We con­ceded two in two but, hope­fully, on Sun­day we can get back to keep­ing clean sheets be­cause in re­cent weeks we’ve not scored as many as we had been do­ing.

“Pre­vi­ously the goals we’d con­ceded wouldn’t have mat­tered be­cause we’d been scor­ing three, four or five. The pleas­ing things for us was we were keep­ing clean sheets and win­ning 1-0 in tight games. From now un­til the end of the sea­son it’ll get more dif­fi­cult and it’s im­por­tant to keep clean sheets.

“Look at Al­loa, it wasn’t the boys up front’s day and who knows if we’d kept a clean sheet we might have got a late goal and gone away with the three points but un­for­tu­nately we were un­able to do that. Hope­fully, go­ing for­ward we can keep more clean sheets and have that so­lid­ity at the back to give the boys up front the plat­form to win us the game.”

Rangers will re­sume their Cham­pi­onship ti­tle chal­lenge hav­ing taken a Premier­ship scalp in mid­week as they booked their place in the Scot­tish Cup quar­ter-fi­nals. It was third time lucky for War­bur­ton’s side af­ter los­ing to St John­stone and then draw­ing with Kil­marnock at Ibrox ear­lier this month. Rangers are on course to clinch a top-flight re­turn this term and Wil­son is pleased with the progress they are mak­ing as they gear up for the re­main­der of the ti­tle race and look for Scot­tish Cup and Petro­fac Train­ing Cup suc­cess.

“A lot more was made of [the St John­stone game] out with our dress­ing room, in terms of beat­ing a team from the Premier­ship,” Wil­son said. “The St John­stone game, we were a lit­tle bit naïve de­fen­sively, al­though in spells we did play good foot­ball. If you look at the first game against Kil­marnock we had enough of the ball but we weren’t able to put it in the back of the net.

“If you look at the other night we played well again, we con­trolled the game. I feel if we played against most teams in the top flight we’d have a lot of con­trol of the game. The im­por­tant thing is to get the wins. Had we won against St John­stone ear­lier in the sea­son peo­ple prob­a­bly wouldn’t have even given it a thought but be­cause that de­feat was there the doubt was in peo­ple’s minds. But never in ours. We know what we are as a team and we can, hope­fully, get bet­ter.

“We had a good win the other night and go­ing into the fur­ther rounds of the com­pe­ti­tion, hope­fully, we’ll have more Premier­ship teams to play against. And, hope­fully, prove we are on the right track and in the league con­tinue to do what we’re do­ing, so that next year it can be the norm.”

Rangers’ for­tunes have been mixed on the plas­tic pitches at the In­do­drill Sta­dium and Rugby Park as the con­tro­ver­sial sur­faces have once again hit the head­lines. Wil­son’s de­fen­sive part­ner Rob Kier­nan last week called for the parks to be banned in Scot­tish foot­ball and Rangers are count­ing the cost of an in­jury to Mar­tyn Waghorn.

The for­mer Hearts cap­tain reck­ons there is lit­tle chance of a blan­ket ban ever be­ing en­forced in our game, but he is far from a fan of the sur­faces as Rangers look to avoid a se­cond tier slip in Dum­fries to­mor­row af­ter­noon.

“When you go in for slide tack­les, you come off and your legs are a mess,” he said. “Mine are in a mess from the other night and I’d only just got over one from the Falkirk game a cou­ple of months ago and it has opened up again. But we know what we’re fac­ing when we go on them and we just have to get on with it.”

SHUT DOWN: Danny Wil­son is hop­ing Rangers can re­turn to their miserly ways on Queen of the South’s syn­thetic pitch.

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