Beat around the Bush

AT last the streak was stopped, the record was broken and Rangers were finally defeated – but here’s how the table-topping side will benefit from their recent setbacks.

Far too often this season there has been a feeling of hesitancy, with the interest of protecting a record sitting alongside the pressure and expectation of remaining front-runners.

The ambition of going for a victory has been tempered, albeit unwittingly, with the pressure of not wanting to have a record dispatched.

The home reverse against Watford was a great disappointment at the time – all the gloating to friends turned to ridicule the following day as the BBC magnified the subtle nuances of a poor display.

Despite following this up with a defeat against Leeds United, that took the edge and pressure off a title challenge and has since prompted a little more fluency in Rangers’ play.

You only have to look back to John Gregory’s managerial season with QPR to note that a win and a defeat is better than two draws, especially when you’re in the thick of a challenge at either end of the table.

Gregory’s relegation saviours were finding life tough purely because they were drawing while their rivals were losing badly, then picking up three points – soon, however, they found the formula for success.

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This is also true of present-day QPR – rather than nicking the odd point Rangers are now picking up maximums once more and it is one of the main reasons why the Rs opened up a significant gap at the top.

The pressure of expectation has subsided somewhat with the imperative stressed on winning, rather than not losing – and, as a result, the fans are reaping the benefits.

The gap at the top has been as wide as seven points at times and this is testament in my opinion to a little more endeavour and the luck that accompanies it.

It has helped that rivals continue to falter – Welsh duo Cardiff and Swansea epitomising the ups and downs of a Championship club in recent times – and new rivals are emerging all the time.

The importance of playing without fear and attempting to pick up maximums as opposed to resting on your undefeated laurels cannot be understated. Indeed, some wins have come from positions where the ambition not to lose would have been overriding earlier this season.

The fear of losing has now dissipated and Rangers can once again get back to their early season form – playing without fear and taking the division by the scruff of the neck.