Rangers manager Steven Gerrard says he is being “proven wrong” in thinking his squad have the mentality to sustain a Scottish Premiership title push.
The Ibrox side conceded two late goals to lose 2-1 to Kilmarnock and slip 10 points behind leaders Celtic.
It is the third time Rangers have dropped points in five league games since the winter break.
“I thought we were in a better place than what we’ve shown over the last four-six weeks,” Gerrard said.
“I thought we had the mentality and the characters to sustain a push but on the evidence of the last four-five weeks I’m getting proven wrong.
“We came here tonight and it was a pressure game in a stadium where you know you are going to be under the cosh. The reality is that we couldn’t cope.
“But having said that, it’s me as well because I’m responsible for that group of players.”
Asked where the defeat leaves Rangers in their quest for a first league title since 2011, Gerrard told BT Sport: “Very, very tough. You’ve got to look at the form of other people that are relentless right now.
“But we keep going and try to change the situation that we put ourselves in. There’s no denying they’re obviously in the driving seat.”
Scott Arfield’s spectacular goal had Rangers in front at the break, but Kilmarnock rallied in the second half and struck twice in the final 13 minutes.
There was some controversy around Stephen O’Donnell’s equaliser as the ball appeared to hit Rory MacKenzie on the arm, and Alfredo Morelos has a goal ruled out for a push before Eamonn Brophy lashed in the winner for Kilmarnock.
Gerrard said he believed Morelos’ strike was “legitimate” but dismissed the suggestion of handball.
“That’s not a handball. That’s us clutching at straws,” he said. “It’s a soft cross that’s going away from goal. The kid is about 5ft 7in and I’ve got three defenders going to try and clear the box and we don’t clear the box.”
Rangers face Livingston at Ibrox on Saturday with their title fate now out of their own hands.
And after questioning his side’s ability to handle pressure, Gerrard also admitted he also had to take responsibility for the downturn in form in 2020.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Former Rangers midfielder Derek Ferguson on Sportsound
Rangers had intensity before the break. Is it a case that the players think that because they had two good performances against Celtic, that’s enough? It isn’t. I think the title race is over, I don’t think Rangers will be able to claw that back.
For large parts, Steven Gerrard hasn’t had a lot of criticism, because he’s done a lot of good. But I think we have to question that a bit because something has gone wrong.
Former Rangers striker Billy Dodds
I thought Rangers were going to put in a more genuine title challenge, I thought their squad was better than last year. That doesn’t appear to be the case. When they go to the bench, there’s not much coming off it. You could see it coming tonight a country mile off.
They’re 1-0 up and they’re trying to just manage the fixture, they’ve not played with a tempo or an intensity since they’ve come back [from the winter break].