Rangers have reduced Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to two points once again after a straightforward victory over Motherwell at Fir Park.

Philippe Clement continued his unbeaten run as boss thanks to first-half goals from Kieran Dowell and Todd Cantwell. Rangers dominated throughout and should have won by a greater margin.

Clement will now turn his attention to the visit of Ross County on Wednesday before the Old Firm showdown comes into focus. Top spot in the Premiership is within touching distance.

Momentum maintained in title race

One more down, three more to go. The January break is now in sight for Rangers. And so is pole position in the Premiership title race. Another win keeps things ticking over nicely for Clement’s side and Rangers find themselves in fine form on the brink of the second Old Firm clash of the campaign. Ross County must be taken care of before then, of course, and the visit of Kilmarnock in the last match before the break cannot be discounted at Ibrox. But this is a Rangers side that have shown what they are capable of, that have proven that they are very much in this title race. They are challengers and time will tell if they can be champions.

This was as comfortable an afternoon as Clement could have wished for. As the away support headed for the exits, they began their journeys home full of festive cheer and title belief. Clement has worked miracles since being appointed as Michael Beale’s successor in October. Few would have believed that Rangers would be in this position at this stage but the Belgian has transformed the fortunes, both individually and collectively, of those that he inherited at Ibrox. The job is far from done. Rangers can now dare to dream, though. This could be a season to be cheerful after all.

Rangers burst out of the blocks

This one was all-but over inside three minutes. Motherwell may have had plenty of time to recover from losing the opening goal but there was nothing about their reaction to suggest that a comeback was on the cards. So it was to prove. When Cantwell doubled the lead after 16 minutes, Rangers had the three points tucked away. The only frustration at the break was that the scoreline wasn’t even more comprehensive. The opener from Dowell had style and substance. It owed much to his work rate as he nipped in to win the ball high up the park but the quality was evident as well as he combined with Cyriel Dessers. The finish was emphatic as he lashed the ball beyond Liam Kelly.

The keeper was kept busy throughout the afternoon as he did his bit to keep the deficit down from Motherwell’s perspective. He had no chance when Cantwell found the bottom corner, however. Abdallah Sima knocked a Ridvan Yilmaz cross into Cantwell’s path and he finished with aplomb. If Rangers had been more clinical, this could have been a sore one for Motherwell. In the end, a late Dessers effort that was ruled out for offside was as close as Rangers came to adding to their tally once again. The Nigerian had the ball in the net once more in injury time, but the flag was raised again.

Midfield pairing offers unexpected promise

All Clement wanted for Christmas was a fit midfielder. The partnership of Dowell and Dujon Sterling wasn’t quite what Clement would have had in mind a couple of weeks ago, but he had to make do with what he had available to him at Fir Park. To be fair to Dowell, he equipped himself well when he came into the side against St Johnstone. And Sterling has shown an unexpected aptitude for a central role having been signed to provide cover at full-back this season. Clement handed Bailey Rice a spot on the bench on his return to his former club but the absences of Nicolas Raskin, Ryan Jack, Tom Lawrence and John Lundstram were impossible to overlook. With Ross County, Celtic and Kilmarnock to come, the weight on the shoulders of Dowell and Sterling is considerable. Both can be satisfied with their efforts once again.

The opening goal was a crucial contribution from Dowell but his overall showing was excellent as he pressed effectively and used the ball smartly. Sterling is naturally more robust and combative and the balance worked well for Rangers. That must be the case going forward now.

Clean sheet count continues

Clement spoke on Friday about the number of clean sheets that Rangers have recorded during his tenure and his pleasure at how that run had been put together. Before this fixture, only Hearts, Aberdeen and Dundee had beaten Jack Butland on Premiership duty. Clement was keen to stress that it was not just down to the keeper or the four in front of him. He referenced the way in which Rangers have defended from the front and repeated a message that he is getting across to the squad about an offensive style having defensive benefits. One of the priorities for Clement when he arrived at Ibrox was to give the team more structure, to ensure that they had more control with and without the ball. That has certainly been evident thus far and a defensive line that has chopped and changed on occasion has remained largely steadfast.

This was an afternoon where Motherwell caused few problems. The Steelmen had more about them after the break but the game was done by that time as their long winless run against Rangers continued. A shout for a penalty for an incident involving Yilmaz and Brodie Spencer was waved away by referee David Dickinson. On second viewing, the anger from the home crowd was misplaced.

Clement can manage the match minutes

The puzzle of putting a team on the pitch has not been an easy one to solve for Clement in recent times. His options are limited and he must be mindful of the bigger picture at all times. This wasn’t exactly the strongest bench that Rangers have selected this season. Clement did have attacking options sitting behind him but there was a real emphasis on those that started doing the hard work and ensuring that the points would be returning to Ibrox.

Rice was joined on the sidelines by fellow academy kids Adam Devine and Johnly Yfeko as Ben Davies and Borna Barisic missed out on the squad. John Souttar and Leon King were the defensive reinforcements. This could have been an afternoon for Ross McCausland to be given a rest but the Northern Irishman got the nod once again. One of those who could have started, Rabbi Matondo, had to wait until after the hour mark to get his chance as he replaced Sima and the Senegalese was given a well-earned breather. Wright was given the final 15 minutes alongside Sam Lammers as Cantwell and McCausland were withdrawn. They had played their part at Fir Park and deserved an early finish to keep them as fresh as possible.

The sight of Connor Goldson receiving treatment before being replaced by Souttar was a worry. At the same time, Dowell got a well-earned reception as King got a run out in the closing minutes.