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Rangers must plug the gaps to seal top-flight return

By Gavin McCafferty

Published 05/04/2016

Showing the way: Mark Warburton wants the Rangers defence to tighten up after conceding nine goals in three games
Showing the way: Mark Warburton wants the Rangers defence to tighten up after conceding nine goals in three games

Rangers manager Mark Warburton admits his team must be more difficult to beat, but he played down their recent increase in goals conceded.

Rangers' imminent Scottish Championship title triumph was delayed on Saturday when Harry Panayiotou scrambled home an injury-time equaliser for Raith Rovers to seal a 3-3 draw.

Rangers will secure promotion if they beat Dumbarton at Ibrox tonight, and could even afford to lose if Hibernian fail to beat Livingston.

But their defensive frailties are causing concern for supporters, with the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic looming on April 17.

However, Warburton's side had only shipped one goal in their previous five games and he does not appear to be overly-concerned.

"We were very impressive up to that point and there is no doubt we have conceded nine goals in three games, which is unacceptable," he said. "But again, sometimes you can over-analyse.

"The first goal at Falkirk was a wonder strike into the top corner, and on Saturday the first goal took a 90-degree spin and the guy hit it on the full with a screaming volley. Wes (Foderingham) had no chance.

"They were two magnificent goals. If you are beaten by those wonder strikes, then that's the random nature of football.

"Nine goals and not one headed goal against us, so there is not an aerial threat that we are exposed to.

"We are looking at what we can do better, and we have to be tighter and harder to beat, that's for sure.

"But I don't think there is one area that we are exposed on at the moment."

Warburton declared he would possibly run with four central defenders rather than three next season, but reiterated that he wants a lean squad, while confirming that a defensive midfield player was high up on his shopping list.

And the Englishman hopes to have Harry Forrester tied to an extended deal soon.

"We are very close," Warburton said. "Harry will hopefully commit himself to a long-term future at the club."

Warburton did admit that his players need to learn to block out the crowd ahead of tonight's Ibrox clash.

"If you look around, there were late goals at Hibernian and Falkirk - it's that stage of the season," he said.

"We have a young group of players and we spoke about responding to the crowd. They can hear the crowd and hear the noises and they knew there was something going on.

"Did it impact us and did we lose focus and concentration? If it did, we have to improve on that as in the weeks and games ahead, that will happen time and time again.

"So we just have to keep learning from it."

Belfast Telegraph

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