Rangers jumped to top spot in the Scottish Premiership with a hard-fought yet totally deserved 3-0 win over St Johnstone in Perth.

On a difficult pitch, Philippe Clement’s side earned three points thanks to an outstanding Mohamed Diomande finish and two late James Tavernier penalties.

The Rangers Review breaks down the big talking points from Perth.

Rangers take control of the title race 

For the first time since the 2021/22 season, Rangers are top of the table. This, much like a 1-0 win in Paisley over St Mirren recently, wasn’t always pretty or a totally comfortable Sunday for Rangers fans. There was space after the break to increase the advantage, in particular down their right, although a combination of the surface causing mayhem in moments and decision-making letting Clement down in others kept the outcome open until Dujon Sterling’s powerful running on the right earned Tavernier a chance to make it two from the spot. Another penalty was awarded soon after after a VAR review following a Tom Lawrence shot which Tavernier also emphatically converted. There is not just a renewed sense of hope and optimism under Clement since he assumed the job seven points behind in October but a team, club and fanbase that are unrecognisable from when he arrived. Not only have Rangers got themselves into a title race, they are in the driving seat. That felt impossible in October.

Why conditions set the first half tone

Come the half-hour mark in Perth Rangers had scarcely occupied the home side’s final third with shots at a minimum. Clement’s side were a little predictable at points, always looking to find runners beyond the home defence and not exploiting the space ahead of it enough. The pitch likely had a big part to play in their approach to miss out the midfield too frequently from the start. Rangers grew into the game the more they got Todd Cantwell involved who routinely received with his back to goal, spun out of danger and drew fouls. Although Diomande’s opener was all about the individual quality of strike, it came about after Rangers played into the feet of Cantwell and Fabio Silva.

Additional reading 

Diomande’s Rangers announcement  

Just as Oscar Cortes demonstrated with the brightest showing on the pitch a week ago in his full debut against Ayr United, Diomande looks ready to play his part now. Rangers needed to strike a balance in January by strengthening immediately and looking to the long-term and both look like they can tick either box. Operating close to John Lundstram at the base of midfield this was a proper introduction to the SPFL for Diomande. Aside from his goal, the 22-year-old was busy off the ball and always a passing option on it. For a while Rangers have lacked a player to offer them balance on the left side of the centre and provide natural qualities to beat the press - all traits Diomande possesses. The goal, on his weaker foot, shone as a moment of quality in a half lacking it.

Wright, rotation and a clever half-time change

Clement raised some eyebrows with his team selection opting to bring Borna Barisic and Scott Wright in and rotating out Ridvan Yilmaz alongside Ross McCausland. The Belgian has insisted he’ll continue to switch things up as he seeks to build a unified fitness across his squad and prepare individuals for a hectic schedule across three competitions until May. Wright endured a poor first half and Sterling came on at the break as a result. It was his powerful running that proved invaluable to win a penalty which made the outcome secure. With the pace and defensive discipline to track the wing-back the other way when required, this was an intelligent move from Clement who continues to find new ways to utilise the impressive Sterling.