Given it's been almost a month since our last league match at Ibrox, it's not a surprise to hear the stadium is nearing a sell-out for tomorrow's game against St Mirren. Add in Morton's dismantling of Hibs during the week then an eight point gap (nine if we include our much better goal difference) represents the kind of comfortable cushion every bear is after as we enter the business end of the season. Just eleven league matches remain with six at home - four of these over the next four weeks. Suffice to say while the league may not have been won the other night, if we can win our next five league games over the course of March, it will just be a matter of time before it's clinched the following month.
Of course, despite the understandable confidence of many bears, that's easier said than done. Not only have St Mirren given us two tough matches already this campaign, the other four teams we face on league duty over the coming month are all competing with the Buddies for a promotion play-off place. Raith Rovers, Morton, Falkirk and Queen of the South are no pushovers and will take advantage of any complacency. Ensuring the players remain focussed and motivated is where the management team will earn their corn as the spring months approach.
With that in mind, despite some positive results since our last match at Ibrox our form, particularly in terms of goals scored, hasn't been as positive as other periods. Yes, wins against Queens, Raith and Killie in the cup are all important but it's safe to say have been tighter games than our play perhaps merited. Quite simply we're not taking our chances clinically enough and the loss of our main attacking focal point Martyn Waghorn (most likely until next season) isn't helping. Certainly O'Halloran, King and Forrester are different types of player and still finding their feet at the club. Meanwhile, as useful as Miller and Clark are also, they're never going to be as prolific - or as important - as Waghorn was up until his injury. The best thing we can say about our forward line is that we have plenty of options.
The same can be said for our midfield. With Halliday, Ball, Zelalem, Shiels, Law, McKay and Holt all available we really do have an embarrassment of riches in the engine room but we've struggled to find the same blend and continuity we had earlier in the season. Undoubtedly the recent loss of Holt to injury and Halliday to suspension upset our balance in that regard and the manager will be extremely keen to rediscover that as soon as possible. Add in our poor finish to last Sunday's match in Dumfries then the correct midfield harmony is imperative ahead of matches against hungry teams who will cause us trouble on the counter. For example I'm unconvinced moving McKay into a more central role worked against Queens. We lost his excellent partnership with Lee Wallace on the left flank and, for all his positives, McKay is never going to be our best option in inevitable defensive situations.
Similarly, although our defence now looks to pick itself, neither is that unit perfect. James Tavernier and Lee Wallace are excellent attacking outlets but can be weak man-for-man defensively. Fortunately, the ever-developing Rob Kiernan is able to offer suitable cover - even if some of his decision-making needs to be worked on. Meanwhile, Danny Wilson has improved on his early season contribution but never looks overly comfortable when put under pressure. Moreover, despite some good form from Wes Foderingam behind them all, some improvement in his command of his area would benefit those in front of him.
All in all, it's difficult to be overly critical of the players or manager. So far at least, this season has been largely impressive with only the odd game (or period of game) where we've struggled to find the level of performance we all expect. In that sense, our lead at the top of the table is completely merited and the gap to those behind one we certainly deserve. However, it's essential we don't take any such cushion for granted and push hard towards the finish line. Tomorrow's match against a St Mirren outfit which have improved under new boss Alex Rae is the ideal opportunity to show just how clear-minded we are when it comes to achieving our objectives.
Mind the gap - no slip-ups please!
Discuss this article
Enjoyed this analysis? Disagree entirely? Found a spelling mistake? Whatever your opinion, it's welcome on our popular and friendly message-board.