St. Johnstone 0 Rangers 2: Rangers goalscorer Steven Naismith says classy football will go out the window from here on in after the Gers ground out a 2-0 win over St Johnstone last night.
Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty opened the scoring before Naismith sealed the win in the second half to put the Gers back on the summit for the first time since Boxing Day, having played one more game than Celtic.
Naismith said: “It's coming down to points before performances. Tonight was one of those days on a tough pitch to play on but we got goals at the right time.”
Boss Walter Smith was happy to see his side battling on a difficult surface, as eluded to by Naismith.
“We showed a good edge in defence tonight and we had to, that pitch makes it awkward for both sides”, he said. “St Johnstone try and play a good level of football too and it affects them as well.
“In terms of creating opportunities there wasn't a great deal for either team in the first half and we had to bide our time because St Johnstone don't lose many goals.”
Lafferty was back in action after recovering from a knee injury sustained while on international duty and he was on target with 20 minutes gone after pouncing on a short headed pass-back from Danny Grainger before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting home.
The champions could have doubled their lead when Lafferty won a free-kick that was flighted into the box by Gregg Wylde only for David Weir to head off the post.
Rangers looked dangerous after the restart when Lafferty turned provider for Nikica Jelavic but the, hitherto anonymous, Croatian screwed his effort wide.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic and McGregor produced a superb save to push Kevin Moon's shot wide of the upright but the offside flag was raised anyway.
McGregor also denied Murray Davidson and Jordan Robertson but Rangers confirmed the three points with 83 minutes on the clock when a flick-on from Jelavic was met by Naismith and he rifled low past Peter Enckelman.