Rangers have recorded back-to-back Premiership wins after following up their victory over St Johnstone with a narrow success at home to Motherwell.

Michael Beale’s side went into the Ibrox clash on the back of what should have been a morale-boosting triumph against Real Betis on Thursday evening.

But it was another lacklustre showing from Rangers as Cyriel Dessers netted the only goal of the game to keep Beale’s side within touching distance of Celtic in the title race.

Rangers get over the line

A win and a clean sheet for the third successive fixture made for pleasant reading for Beale. Those facts are papering over significant cracks for Rangers, though. Once again, this wasn’t good enough.

The deficit to Celtic has been cut to four points following their win over Livingston 24 hours earlier. On Wednesday evening, the Lions visit Ibrox for a match that simply must be won for Beale.

Seeing off St Johnstone, Real Betis and now Motherwell has seen three important boxes ticked by Beale in the aftermath of the Old Firm defeat. The noise around his own position has quietened down slightly and the heat has been taken out of a situation that threatened to boil over at Ibrox.

But a support that demand performances as well as points won’t be placated forever by what they are being served up. The home crowd are still on edge and the final whistle was greeted by a sense of relief as much as celebration as the deflected strike from Dessers proved to be the difference.

The boos that were heard were not as vociferous or as prolonged as the ones that Beale and his players were subjected to following the loss to Celtic. But they were an indication that even wins are simply not enough for Rangers right now.

Performance leaves a lot to be desired

The goal from Dessers was timely for a Rangers side were unfathomably slack and wasteful in possession. With each pass that failed to find its intended target and with each wrong decision that was made, the moans and groans around Ibrox increased exponentially. And rightly so.

Jack Butland was quick to remonstrate with those in front of him when Harry Paton fired just wide of target, while Callum Slattery also came close. Motherwell arrived here unbeaten on the road under Stuart Kettlewell will have been frustrated not to have caused Rangers more problems during a first half in which they were competitive but not convincing enough.

Going into the last ten minutes, the visitors were still in it and Ibrox was getting anxious. The second period had followed largely the same pattern but Rangers didn’t have the crucial goal to show for their efforts and the home crowd know all too well what can happen when teams are not killed off.

A Blair Spittal effort that James Tavernier cleared off the line had hearts in mouths around Ibrox. All the Steelmen bench could do was put their head in their hands and it was repeated seconds later when Connor Goldson made a last ditch block.

The wins will ease the pressure on Beale and three successive victories on the back of the loss to Celtic is all that he could have asked for. At some stage, though, he must start to see performance levels rise because such uninspiring showings are simply not sustainable.

Beale tries a back three

Beale has not had his troubles to seek in terms of injury issues over the last couple of weeks. He is still without midfielder Kieran Dowell, while Todd Cantwell and Nicolas Raskin will not be available until after the international break.

Danilo faces a similar spell out of action and the timeframe for Tom Lawrence to return is also measured in weeks after he was withdrawn against Betis. To add to Beale’s woes, Rabbi Matondo was forced off late in the first half after receiving treatment on three separate occasions.

It heralded the arrival of John Souttar and the switch to three at the back as he joined Connor Goldson and Ben Davies. Ironically, it was against Motherwell last season when Beale also utilised a formation that has been a topic of conversation amongst supporters for some time.

Beale has previously spoken about the possibility of using this setup. The theory behind it is sound but there was not enough here to suggest that it is going to be the cure for all of the ills that have permeated the campaign for Rangers.

With 15 minutes left, Oli Shaw got in behind down the right channel. Thankfully for Rangers, Jack Butland was equal to the strike as he produced another commanding performance between the sticks.

Lammers must do more

The absences of Dowell and Cantwell opened the door for Lawrence. Now that he has joined the walking wounded list, it is Sam Lammers that must step up when it comes to the number ten position.

The Dutchman has endured a difficult start to his Rangers career. Signed for £3.5million from Atalanta after a lengthy courtship from Beale, it is safe to say that much more was expected.

An effort in the win over Livingston back on the second weekend of Premiership action is still his only strike for Beale’s side and fears over his productivity in the final third that were expressed when he arrived at Ibrox have been compounded. Goals aside, he hasn’t shown enough that he can be the link between the midfield and the attack.

Once again, the intention was there in terms of his build-up play. Yet the execution wasn’t as a couple of nice touches and neat passes came to very little.

When he was moved to partner Dessers, the chances arrived more often. Liam Kelly saved a low, tame effort and blocked another on the angle but the best came from a Tavernier cross as Lammers fired wide of target when he should have scored from 12 yards.

His afternoon ended early as Kemar Roofe was introduced. The forward had contributed, but, once again, not as much as his manager needed him to.

Goal the only highlight for Dessers

A return of two goals from ten appearances hadn’t exactly justified the fee or the faith in the first few weeks of the season. A third strike must, then, be the moment that kick-starts the Ibrox career of a forward that looks low on confidence.

The Nigerian has found himself at the centre of the storm on more than one occasion this term as his performances and his potential have been called into question. Some of the reaction towards him may have been over the top, but many of the comments have been justified.

This was his first start since the defeat to Celtic three weeks ago. Overlooked for a jersey and a substitute role against St Johnstone, Dessers got just seconds of action against Betis in midweek.

In terms of an overall showing, this still wasn’t at the level required from Dessers but his main contribution in the first half was telling as he diverted a Matondo shot beyond Liam Kelly from inside the area. Just minutes earlier, he had frustrated Ibrox after twice squandering the chance to find Lammers on the break after seeing a cross intercepted and then failing to beat his man down the left.

With 25 minutes left, Dessers was replaced by Ryan Jack. At the same time, Abdallah Sima on for Scott Wright at the end of an ineffective showing that was hardly him staking a claim for another start.

Dessers will be pitched in again sooner rather than later. Time will tell if there is better to come.