sport news Hearts 1-3 Rangers: Defoe and Jack set up comfortable win and delay Celtic's ...

Rangers could quite justifiably have mustered the mocking chant: 'Can we play you every week?' as a rousing reaction to the easiest of their four top flight victories over Hearts.

More likely, Steven Gerrard was posing the question: 'How can I make Rangers play like this every week?'

For if he can, Celtic won't be granted a pass like this season which has helped them to the brink of picking up their eighth Premiership crown on the spin. 

Jermain Defoe opened the scoring in the 15th minute with a clinical strike past Zdenek Zlamal

Jermain Defoe opened the scoring in the 15th minute with a clinical strike past Zdenek Zlamal

This emphatic success for Rangers, delaying Celtic's confirmation as champions by at least another week, doesn't even register as a crumb of comfort.

However, it may be a pointer to more competitive times at the top in exactly 12 months from now.

Rangers have given glimpses of high-class form like this before yet too often followed an impressive step forward by a couple of stumbles back, thereby undermining chances of Gerrard seriously testing Celtic over the stretch.

Take their previous visit to Tynecastle on December 2. They scaled the top of the table for the first time under Gerrard thanks to a battling 2-1 win.

Four days later they lost at home to Aberdeen and followed up by dropping two points at Dens Park. There is the Rangers league campaign in a nutshell, such inconsistencies dogging the season throughout.

Disruption to momentum is a theme that Craig Levein has tired of, too, yet his complaints centre around a freakish helping of misfortune with injuries. 

Ryan Jack combined with Daniel Candeias to double Rangers' advantage in the 36th minute

Ryan Jack combined with Daniel Candeias to double Rangers' advantage in the 36th minute

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The latest to befall Hearts initially appeared to be Peter Haring, who battled through thanks to painkillers to aid Scottish Cup progress last weekend and is now a doubt for Hampden with a groin problem.

But then, typical of the campaign, another one bit the dust. Sean Clare was taken ill and replaced in the starting line-up by Craig Wighton, with Clevid Dikamona promoted to the bench.

Wighton took his place wide on the right of midfield but, perhaps with not enough time to digest all the instruction, was quizzing Levein for information early on.

That switch might not have been central to the problem of Hearts botching their pressing plan but it certainly was no help.

If his manager had warned him not to be caught dwelling on the ball during that touchline exchange, then it was advice spurned by the late call-up.

Jon Flanagan took maximum advantage with a typically full-blooded challenge which sent Rangers breaking swiftly. Glen Kamara turned and fed a scampering Jermain Defoe who breezed in behind and tucked a trademark finish past the advancing Bobby Zlamal.

Looking to the future with a 36-year-old sounds an odd strategy. Yet it is hard to escape the feeling that a fully-fit Defoe, who turns 37 in October, would be a massive asset to Rangers' title ambitions next season.

He is a dream for a passer like Kamara to link up with and being supported closely by two busy advanced midfielders like Daniel Candeias and Scott Arfield worked to create difficulties for Hearts. 

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