Steven Gerrard hailed Ryan Jack’s goal-scoring return for Rangers – but admitted he will have to take special care with the Scotland midfielder to ensure he does not suffer a repeat of his recent injury woes.
The rampant league leaders were already three goals up against Ross County when Jack climbed off the bench on the hour mark to make his comeback after two months out with a troublesome knee injury.
And it took him just six minutes to fire his first goal of the season as he started then finished off a sublime team goal.
Rangers ran out 5-0 winners in the end as they marked Gerrard’s 150th game in charge with a 12th straight league win at Ibrox this term.
But the highlight for the Ibrox boss was seeing his star midfield man back in action.
“It’s so important to have Jacko back for many reasons,” said Gerrard. “He’s a fantastic footballer but he also drives standards, the way he trains and goes about things.
“He demands from others, he’s a leader and has been a captain before.
“I was lucky to take on Ryan Jack and the longer we can keep him fit between now and the end of the season, the better because he makes the group stronger.
“I thought his goal epitomized our performance. It came from the corner flag in the left back area.
“I’m not sure how many passes were involved but it was one of my favourite goals of the season so far.
“It would do me and the team no harm if he continues to score important goals but that’s his first of the season.”
Gerrard has already admitted he will have to work with Scots boss Steve Clarke to ensure Jack is kept as fresh as possible during the title run in and ahead of this summer’s Euros.
And he added: “The key is to wrap him up and make sure he’s fit and available for as long as possible.”
Headers from Ryan Kent and Filip Helander either side of James Tavernier’s missed penalty – the skipper’s second spot-kick blunder in the last fortnight – put Gers on easy street inside half an hour.
Joe Aribo added a sensational third before half-time as he danced in from the corner flag before whipping an unstoppable strike past Ross Laidlaw.
County could have given themselves a lifeline just after the interval but saw Harry Paton and Alex Iacovitti both strike the woodwork.
Jack made his return and got Rangers back on a roll, with Goldson sealing a victory which puts the Ibrox men 23 points ahead at the top of the table.
But Gerrard was sticking to his one-game-at-a-time mantra after the game despite now needing just nine more wins to see his team crowned champions.
The former England skipper – who now has 98 wins as Gers boss – said: “It doesn’t make any sense to get ahead of ourselves or where we are right now.
“Today was about getting maximum points. It’s a bonus the way we did it with a full 90-minute performance.
“At Aberdeen we came off the game at 65 then last week at Motherwell it took us 45 to get going.
“So I’m pleased we had a hunger and urgency about us today. We thoroughly deserved our win and it could have been even more emphatic.
“I don’t get involved in numbers or stats but I’m very proud to have been Rangers manager for 150 games.
“Does there come a time when you have to accept that a title is there for us? No. Only when it’s done, if it gets done.”
County remain just a point above the relegation zone but have played two games more than both their rivals at the bottom Motherwell and Hamilton.
Boss John Hughes said: “It’s a tough day for us, but our season won’t get judged on what happens here.
“We can still take plenty positives from a defeat, from the basic fundamentals and the way Rangers played the game.
“We were up against a top-class team, I hope all my players come back and say ‘that’s how to play football’.”
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.