Steven Gerrard fears Celtic are closing in on a ninth successive title after questioning his Rangers squad’s bottle.
The Ibrox outfit started the year looking to use December’s Celtic Park victory as a springboard to a run at the championship.
But barely six weeks later it appears all hope is gone after a 2-1 defeat to Kilmarnock saw the Light Blues slip 10 points behind their bitter rivals.
Gers still have a game in hand and two Old Firm derbies to turn the situation around but Gerrard confessed his team have failed to handle the pressure to halt the Hoops reign of dominance.
Rangers grabbed a first-half lead through a Scott Arfield rocket but, just like last season when the wheels came off at Rugby Park after the winter break, they surrendered the points with a shambolic second-half display as goals from Stephen O’Donnell and Eamonn Brophy sealed Killie’s win.
“In the second half, we never handled the heat or the pressure,” admitted Gerrard. “We never played like a team that was trying to fight to remain in a title race, a team that was trying to come away from here with three points.
“The reality is the opposition (Celtic) are in the driving seat. That’s down to two things – their form and us not being good enough since the winter break.
“But I’m responsible for that. I put this group together. I coach them, they are my tactics and decisions. So I’m not going to sit here and try and force any blame in any other direction than myself.
“It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating at the moment. We keep going, we keep fighting and see where we are.
“But on the evidence of the second half tonight, it’s very worrying for me right now.”
Gerrard admitted his team would face questions over their bottle after losing to Hearts last month and his view has not changed.
He said: “On the evidence of the second half, yes. We came here tonight and it was a pressure game in a stadium where you know you are going to be under the cosh or under the heat.
“The reality is that we couldn’t cope tonight.
“I had every belief and confidence when I reflected on the first six months of the season that I had enough to put at least a stronger fight up at this stage. But at the moment it’s looking extremely tough.
“The last four or five weeks – or how many weeks it is since we came back – the consistency seems to have disappeared, which is a worry.”
While the wheels have fallen off Gers’ season, Kilmarnock are back on track under Alex Dyer with three straight league wins pushing them to within a point of the top six.
The Rugby Park boss said: “I’m delighted. It was a great night for the football club.
“It was a terrific finish from Eamonn at the end and a great result for us. I thought we would get chances as the game wore on.
“We contained them to a to a degree but showed them too much respect in the first half. After the break was much more like us and we were confident of causing them problems.
“I sensed a vulnerability in them a little bit as we asked questions of them.”