Steven Gerrard has told Rangers it is time to stand up and be counted after seeing their 27-game unbeaten run smashed.
The Ibrox boss saw his side crash out of the Betfred Cup on Wednesday night after a shock quarter-final defeat to St Mirren – meaning he is now zero from seven when it comes to lifting domestic trophies after two-and-a-half years in Scotland.
But the Light Blues remain firmly in charge when it comes to this season’s title race and can stretch their lead at the top of the Premiership to 16 points with a win at home to Motherwell, albeit having played three games more than Celtic.
And the Rangers manager does not want his team feeling sorry for themselves after losing to domestic opposition for the first time since March.
He said: “I think it’s extremely important how we react from this.
“You’ve got two choices. You either let it linger and feel sorry for yourself – or you react in the right way. You stand up and be counted.
“We’ll take the criticism and what is coming our way.
“It will be new because we’ve been on such a fantastic run.
“So I’ll be looking around the group to see who is wanting to react in the right way and positively. We need to bounce back at the weekend.”
Gerrard gambled on his side progressing past Jim Goodwin’s team without Alfredo Morelos after deciding to accept a two-game ban – meted out to the Colombian for his forearm clash on Dundee United’s Mark Connolly – early.
Morelos would have found himself sitting out the Motherwell match and next week’s Perth trip to face St Johnstone had he been found guilty at a Hampden hearing scheduled for Thursday.
But by accepting the violent conduct charge two days before the disciplinary panel, the striker’s ban was pushed forward thus ruling him out of the Saints clash.
The move, however, backfired as replacement frontman Cedric Itten failed to trouble the Buddies goal and Saints claimed a famous 3-2 victory with Conor McCarthy’s injury-time winner.
Gerrard – who had initially argued Morelos should not face further action after he was booked at the time of the Tannadice incident by referee Steven McLean – declined to respond to the decision to charge last season’s top scorer.
He said: “There’s nothing I’m really going to gain by saying anything on that one but I’m obviously really disappointed not to have him available.”
Meanwhile, Sweden international Filip Helander could make his first Rangers appearance since the 3-3 draw with Benfica six weeks ago if Leon Balogun is ruled out of facing Motherwell this weekend.
The big defender had to be replaced with six minutes left of Wednesday’s cup upset after a clash of heads with St Mirren striker Jon Obika.
Saints took full advantage of the centre-half’s absence as McCarthy netted after Gers failed to deal with a corner.
Gerrard said: “Leon’s a bit dizzy so we will analyse him over the next couple of days and take advice from the medical staff.
“Hopefully he can pull through. If not, we have Fil available again.”