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Kranjcar: Rangers must forget about title race for now

By Andy Newport

Published 03/10/2016

Man marked: Rangers’ Andy Halliday (right) is tackled by Patrick Thistle’s Ryan Edwards
Man marked: Rangers’ Andy Halliday (right) is tackled by Patrick Thistle’s Ryan Edwards

Niko Kranjcar reckons Rangers should put thoughts of a title challenge to the back of their minds until Christmas.

Gers avoided registering their worst start to a league campaign since 1989 with Saturday's 2-0 win over Partick Thistle.

The victory - just their third of the Ladbrokes Premiership campaign so far - moves the Light Blues up to fifth but they remain seven points adrift of rampant leaders Celtic, who have a game in hand.

Mark Warburton's Ibrox side were expected to mount a stiff challenge to Brendan Rodgers' Hoops on their return to the top-flight but now Croatian playmaker Kranjcar says his side should put that matter on the back-burner for the next few months.

The former Tottenham and QPR midfielder - Gers' stand-out performer against Thistle - said: "At the moment we shouldn't think about it. We should think about winning the next game.

"It is not in our hands in respect of the points we've dropped already. I think we learned that the most important game is the next one coming up.

"We can talk come Christmas where we are in the title race. The one thing that is important for us is to concentrate on ourselves and raising our level of football and hopefully winning the next game that comes our way."

The Ibrox men were thrashed 5-1 by Celtic in last month's Old Firm showdown and the teams will meet again on October 23 after being paired in the Betfred Cup semi-finals.

But Kranjcar is refusing to focus on a derby revenge mission until their next game against Inverness in a fortnight is addressed.

"We have a game before the Celtic match, which means points in the league," he said. "We all enjoy playing the big games against Celtic but obviously we didn't enjoy the last one.

"We are all looking forward to the next one but we are going to talk about that once we get Inverness away out of the way. We can talk about Celtic then."

Kranjcar has struggled to reach peak fitness since returning to the UK this summer after a stint with New York Cosmos.

He gave flashes of his brilliant best against Thistle, scoring a sensational opener when he danced his way into the box after 33 minutes before crashing the ball into the roof of the net. Andy Halliday netted a second.

But Kranjcar still had to make way with 18 minutes remaining as he ran out of steam.

However, the 32-year-old bristled at criticism of his conditioning as he insisted he is nearing his maximum. Asked if he was close to full fitness, he said: "I hope so but I have felt really good for a long time.

"I am a footballer who when I don't play well people say I don't look fit. Then when I do play well people say I'm the fittest I've ever been."

• Dundee United gave their Ladbrokes Championship title chances a shot in the arm after William Edjenguele earned them a 1-1 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road.

Belfast Telegraph

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