Nigerian international Sone Aluko says the fight for the Scottish Premier League title will go down to the wire after he helped Rangers reduce the gap with league leaders Celtic. The forward was on target with a second half free-kick as his man of the match performance inspired the Gers to a 4-0 win over ten men Hibernian at Ibrox as they took advantage of Celtic's involvement in Sunday's League Cup semi-final with Falkirk to cut the gap to one point.
Steven Davis had given Rangers a first half lead before his Northern Irish international colleague David Healy made it 2-0 just after the break. New Hibernian captain James McPake had a debut to forget as he saw red in the 71st minute for his second bookable offence with Aluko curling in the resulting free-kick before Davis added a fourth late on to seal the win.
Aluko says critics have been too quick to write Rangers off after the Ibrox club saw the 15 point lead they held in November turn into a four point deficit following defeat in December's Old Firm derby. "Yeah of course they have been. It was the same when we had a big gap and people were premature in writing off Celtic," the forward said.
"I think that is what people are going to do as it creates good stories but I think it will go down to the wire and hopefully we have enough to win the league. We have to focus on ourselves and keep winning games. We can't really focus on what Celtic are doing as they have to try and win games just like us. As long as we win our games and do what we can do then hopefully in the end it will be enough."
Rangers had to do without top scorer Nikica Jelavic for the match against Hibs after the 26-year-old was ruled out with a sickness bug. Speculation continues to surround the Croatian striker's future at Ibrox after he was the subject of a rejected bid from English Championship side West Ham.
Rangers manager Ally McCoist says he is desperate for Jelavic to stay at the Glasgow giants beyond the end of January's transfer window but admits financial constraints at the Ibrox club could well see him leave. "I'm in the exact same boat as any manager in that you like things to go your way. That is not always going to be the case for myself or any other manager," McCoist said.
"You just hope you come through the transfer window at the other end with a fighting chance and I am sure we will do that. Nikica, if he went, would be a big loss. He's a fantastic player and he's been a great talent here. But as you saw against Hibernian we scored some really good goals without him. Nikica didn't play against Motherwell and equally we did very well.
"That's just two examples I'm giving and I'm not sitting here saying I would like to lose him. Of course I wouldn't like to lose him as he's a great player. But I understand the economics of our club and I understand the economics of football and sometimes they dictate and determine what happens rather than other things. There is not just life beyond Nikica, there is life beyond us all and that's the way we have to look at it. There have been bigger players that have left this club and the club always goes on; that is the most important thing."