Rangers maintained their momentum in the Premiership title race after battling to a narrow victory over St Mirren. Cyriel Dessers netted the only goal of the game to give Philippe Clement’s side a valuable three points as they seek to keep the pressure on Celtic at the top of the table.

Rangers returned to competitive action with a win at Dumbarton last weekend and then followed it up with an impressive triumph away to Hibernian on Wednesday night. This was an occasion when the ends justified the means for Clement. There was little to take from the performance but the points were all that mattered.

A low quality encounter

To say that this wasn’t a classic performance from Rangers would be something of an understatement. Of all the games that Clement has taken charge of, this was up there with the worst to watch. The Ibrox boss will be pleased with the outcome, but he will not have many positives to take from a showing that was slack with and without the ball. On another day, St Mirren would have taken something. It could be argued that they deserved something this time.

The low sun and the gusting wind made it a difficult afternoon to play football. The underfoot conditions were not ideal, either. St Mirren coped better with each factor, though, and Rangers never found their rhythm. Too many passes were wayward, too many attacks broke down prematurely. It was disjointed and disappointing.

Clement made his feelings clear at various points during the 90 minutes. His frustration was clear as he patrolled his technical area and repeatedly turned to his bench. The look on his face and the gestures told their own story. The switches he made at the break were to be expected. Rangers were ahead on the scoreboard but far from convincing on the park and Todd Cantwell and Scott Wright were the first to pay the price. Less than 15 minutes, Nicolas Raskin was also withdrawn as Ryan Jack came off the bench once again. Borna Barisic came on late on to see it out.

Rangers got over the line in the end. When the Premiership standings are finalised in May, the full significance of this afternoon will be clearer. The momentum continues to build.

Horses for courses approach

If Clement had decided to go with the same side that saw off Hibernian on Wednesday night, there would have been few supporters who would have complained too vociferously. Connor Goldson was always likely to return but a raft of changes were not expected. The team that Clement picked was, therefore, something of a surprise. It was one he clearly backed to get the job done.

Goldson did indeed return but it was John Souttar who kept his place rather than Leon Balogun. Clement made his biggest calls in the final third. Dessers was handed a start as Fabio Silva was relegated to a place on the bench, while Wright replaced Ross McCausland. The name of Dujon Sterling sparked a debate over the shape of the team and it wasn’t until Rangers lined up that it became evident that the Englishman was operating from the left side. It was unconventional but there was a theory behind it as Clement sought to utilise his squad, even in the early stages of a run of fixtures that will go some way to defining his aspirations towards the end of the season.

There were few, if any, standout individual showings here. If anything, this was further evidence that more reinforcements are needed. Mohamed Diomande will arrive in Glasgow in the coming days after finalising a loan switch from FC Nordsjælland. Jefte, the Brazilian left-back, is also close to a move. The final days of the transfer window carry their own significance for Clement.

Lundstram unlocks Buddies defence

Clement has overseen a marked rise in levels, both individually and collectively, since he replaced Michael Beale in October. Lundstram is one of those who has gone through the biggest transformation. It was a fact that Clement mentioned last weekend as he confirmed that the midfielder was close to signing a new contract to extend his Ibrox stay. On form, few would quibble with the Scouser putting pen-to-paper and it is expected that the arrangement will be confirmed in due course.

Lundstram was the stand-out performer at Easter Road. In one telling way, he picked up where he left off. In others, he was culpable in a slack showing that saw Rangers have no real control for large swathes of the encounter. The most decisive moment in midweek was the delicately dinked pass that picked out Ridvan Yilmaz and allowed him to open the scoring.

A couple of days on, history repeated itself. Lundstram had been a positive influence from the opening exchanges, repeatedly getting his head up and looking to play forward. He got another assist as Dessers made it 1-0 and a through ball towards Cantwell was intercepted. A more forward-thinking, positive Lundstram would be no bad thing for Rangers.

Nice one, Cyriel

When Clement was asked about adding further reinforcements to his attack ahead of the Hibernian fixture, he responded with a backing for Dessers. He pointed to his scoring statistics and the form that the Nigerian has been in, almost urging punters and Press not to write him off just yet. That faith was, of course, repaid the following day as Dessers scored his 11th goal of the campaign.

Clement put his trust in Dessers once again here. The decision to start him ahead of Silva would have sparked plenty of debate. Yet those that questioned the Belgian were quietened when Dessers opened the scoring just 14 minutes in.

It was an accomplished finish. Elvis Bwomono didn’t track his run and Lundstram deserves credit for the pass over the top of the Saints defence. Most of the plaudits have to be directed towards Dessers, though. His first touch took him round keeper Zach Hemming and his second saw him slot the ball into the empty net.

He took the acclaim of the travelling support as his new song was given an airing. Dessers had few other chances as Rangers struggled to assert themselves in the final third.

Clean sheet makes the difference

Rangers arrived in Paisley having recorded eight clean sheets from their ten games on the road in the Premiership this term. Indeed, their defensive effort as been so impressive that it stacks up more than favourably with some of the finest sides on the continent. In the top ten European leagues, only PSV Eindhoven have conceded fewer goals away from home than the four that Jack Butland has lost.

The task ahead of St Mirren was, therefore, an unenviable one. Butland showed his worth with two excellent stops against Hibernian and he was busier than he would have hoped to be here. A terrific block to deny Lewis Jamieson midway through the first half was the highlight but he also saved smartly to turn away a Hyeokkyu Kwon effort from the edge of the area. The on-loan Celtic midfielder had earlier spurned a glorious chance, while Jamieson fired a free-kick over as Rangers looked surprisingly susceptible.

That was the case after the break, too. St Mirren didn’t exactly bombard Butland but Rangers were nervous whenever the ball was crossed into the area and swirled around the air. The hosts were positive with their changes off the bench and Rangers were counting down the minutes a long way from time. After Souttar made a brilliant block, Jaden Brown headed off the bar.