Steven Gerrard gave a strong hint that Alfredo Morelos might struggle to regain his starting place after Jermain Defoe sent Rangers on their way to a comfortable 3-0 win over Hearts in the absence of the suspended Colombian.
Defoe finished emphatically on the rebound in the 16th minute and only a brilliant stop from Zdenek Zlamal denied him a second before Scott Arfield followed up to round off the scoring two minutes after the break.
The former England striker has only started six matches since moving on loan from Bournemouth and now has six goals and a chance to pin down a place with Morelos out for a further three games following his red card in Sunday’s defeat by Celtic.
Rangers manager Gerrard said: “I’m happy with him because he has been a top professional. He has been immaculate around the place. When he’s come on he’s given everything he has. His numbers have been good considering the chances he has had.
“He won’t be too happy with me because I know Jermain better than most and he wants more minutes. I get that, I understand that and respect it.
“But he will get a run in the team now. I said to him ‘play well, score goals, and you will get a run in the team’. If he continues to play well and score goals, it will be interesting in three games’ time.”
Another January signing, Steven Davis, won the sponsors’ man of the match and looked more like the player Rangers fans remember from his first spell at Ibrox.
Gerrard said: “Forget the performance, Steven Davis looks 100 per cent fit now, and match sharp. He is getting up to people and looks sharp and on the eye, it looks completely different. Covering all round the pitch, winning the ball back, intercepting balls, looking aggressive.
“He looked a different player. He looked good against Kilmarnock before the international break, I followed his games with Northern Ireland and he played really well, and it went up a notch tonight. It was very pleasing.
“If you look at both of them, that’s the exact reason I brought them in in January.”
Hearts manager Craig Levein admitted his side struggled without striker Uche Ikpeazu, who is in line to return from a head injury against Hibernian on Saturday.
Levein said: “It was a poor performance.
“Admittedly we were missing Uche, he provides us with more aggression and the ability to retain the ball in the final third.
“We didn’t quite have that, which does get disappointing, particularly for defenders continually defending.
“But we just didn’t do enough and I just want to consign it to the bin and think about Saturday.”