LEON BALOGUN knows that complacency against Celtic may have cost Rangers. He is determined that, in the Premier League, it will not be their undoing.
They did exactly that at Ibrox on a day when Steven Gerrard’s side should have prevailed. However, the manner of victory was not exactly what they had expected.
It was a story of two McGregors. Before his namesake, Callum, scored the unfortunate own goal that ultimately doomed Neil Lennon’s side to loss, Gers keeper Allan made a series of brilliant saves against Celtic.
Rangers didn’t show their most optimistic and managed side, but as Rangers took another step towards the title this season, Balogun knows the win should not be overlooked.
“At halftime we put our heads together and said we need to step up,” Balogun said. “In the first half, they really caused us problems. There is no denying that.
“But I believe we have shown a positive response. The red card, of course, also improved our game plan as well. But I’m glad we won because, particularly on that day, it was an important game.
For us, it’s massive, but there’s nothing we can get carried away with at the same time. The season is still long – so it was a significant and important step for us to take.
“Complacency is an assassin. In the first half, we may have been complacent, and we’ve all seen how that might hurt us.
We have been working our way to a place where we deserve some luck, but I don’t think we can depend on it.
In some of our recent games, there have been a few indicators and we’ll certainly look at that to boost our results.
They still have three games in hand, too. So that’s how we look at it – the difference is not as wide as it seems right now.
“We are the finalists. So we’ve got to show that we want it in every game. And from the start of the match, we have to demonstrate that.
“In the first 45 minutes we weren’t as eager as we should have been, but we can learn from that. Some of the last games weren’t fluid either, so now it’s a big challenge for us to get back to our best game as quickly as possible.”
Rangers would have been behind at the break without a McGregor masterstroke in the first half, and could have even lost after Celtic had dominated.
But the pep talk of coach Gerrard had an impact as his side stepped up in the second half and took advantage of the errors of Celtic, scoring just minutes after being sent off by Nir Bitton.
Balogun said of Gerrard, who won this New Year’s Day game three years in a row now, “He knows how to get at us,” “We show a reaction every time he has to kick our ass. We saw it today.
I’m not going to give out any info, but since he was there himself as a player, he touched the right spots. He knows it makes no sense to just tear us down. But he knows what buttons he can press in order to get us back on our feet.
“When I say we were happy [after the game], I’m not giving away any secrets. Relief is the wrong word. But there was some excitement in the dressing room, especially after the game, after the first half.
It’s fair to express it, but in seven days, we have another target. Work is continuing. It is a perfect start to the new year. We have been working hard on this, and we need to keep it going.
As they extended their lead over Celtic to 19 points, it was a good day for Rangers, but it was also an important day off the pitch.
“Balogun said, “Today, all of us wore a badge on our jerseys. For us, it’s really important for the cause and the project we are on.
But then when you think about the club – because it’s not just us players, it’s the fans that make the club, too – it’s even more huge.
I think that winning an Old Firm that day is something that maybe brings consolation to the affected people, the families. It’s a wonderful gift, I guess, from us, as club members, to the fans.