Steven Gerrard insists Rangers’ title celebrations are not to blame for their Scottish Cup slump against St Johnstone.
Goalkeeper Zander Clark was the hero for the Saints as they denied Gerrard’s team a trip to Hampden.
Not content with a string of vital saves during 90 minutes and extra time, the goalkeeper came up with an astonishing assist for Chris Kane’s 122nd-minute equaliser after being bizarrely left unmarked five yards out.
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That sent a breathless Scottish Cup thriller to a penalty shoot-out as James Tavernier’s own late strike was cancelled out – with Clark making two more huge spot-kick stops as St Johnstone became the first Scottish team to triumph at Ibrox this season.
Rangers have struggled to recapture top form since being confirmed league champions for the first time in a decade last month, and have now crashed out of both the Europa League and the Scottish Cup.
But manager Gerrard has refused to pin the blame for the defeat on a title hangover.
“I think it’s the easy way out, a cop-out, for us to use excuses from three or four weeks ago,” he said.
“We felt fantastic back then and there was a lot of relief and emotions. Rightly so, we deserved that.
“But I made it clear the Scottish Cup was a priority and we needed to keep hungry. A lot of this game was alright. We had the best chances but you need to take them, or you get stung at the end of games.
“Credit to St Johnstone, they got one moment and then it was on to penalties. We need to take responsibility for this and we need to be better in cup competitions moving forward.
“We have never said we are the finished article. We always have one eye on how we can improve.
“That goes for me as well. I am really disappointed with how this has ended and I will reflect on how I can get this group better.
“We need to be better prepared for cup competitions moving forward and we will be back stronger next season.
“But there will be no shying away from us taking that responsibility and I see loads of areas where we can improve. We will keep striving to do that.”
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