Rangers may enjoy a healthy eleven-point lead over nearest challengers Falkirk in the Championship race - but Mark Warburton’s men will be determined first and foremost to get back to winning ways when they face Queen of the South at Ibrox on Saturday.
Last weekend’s defeat at Westfield may have been merely a hiccup as far as the title race is concerned - but serious concerns have been raised over the defensive frailties exposed by Falkirk in the second-half last Friday.
A game that should have been out of sight before the interval was thrown away as a two-goal lead was squandered in the closing twenty minutes - with not for the first time the Rangers manager’s belief in attacking football leading to criticism that such a cavalier attitude may be well and good if the forwards are as clinical as one would like.
But that it leaves the defence vulnerable to counter-attacks, particularly in view of the commitment to attack from both full-backs.
The Dumfries men currently lie sixth in the table with 37 points from 29 games - but with the best will in the world are running out of time and fixtures in their drive to match last season’s fourth place and the final Promotion Play-Off place. Queen’s were a thorn in the side of the Light Blues during the last campaign under successive Ibrox acting managers Kenny McDowall and Stuart McCall - six meetings in 2014-15 (including two Play-Offs) resulted in an even split of two wins apiece and two draws.
That was then however and this is now - this season under Mark Warburton Rangers have enjoyed a 100% record against James Fowler’s men although on their previous visit to Ibrox only a last-minute Martyn Waghorn header ensured a 2-1 home victory.
Queen’s have enjoyed mixed fortune of late, winning two and losing three of their last five outings - but they did overwhelm Dumbarton 6-0 last weekend and no-one at the Championship leaders should under-estimate them.
‘Doonhamers’ midfielder Andy Murdoch - who recently scored the winning goal against Hibernian at Palmerston Park is of course ineligible to play, given that he is on loan from Ibrox for the season, but one ex-Ranger who will be in action in the middle of the park is Kyle Hutton who will be desperate to put one over on his former club.
There will be no Martyn Waghorn on this occasion - the striker remains an injury absentee - and neither will Barrie McKay nor Billy King be available, both being away on International duty.
McKay in particular has been in outstanding form of late - yet the fact that the Ibrox Management elected to fulfill this fixture despite having the opportunity to request a postponement has to an extent split the Ibrox legions - whilst a Saturday afternoon kick-off is always to be welcomed there are those who question why Rangers would deliberately undertake an important game against difficult opponents under-strength.
Whatever the rights or wrongs of the decision to play this game, Mark Warburton will expect nothing less than a return to winning ways and the securing of all three po``ints in the drive to secure automatic promotion.