With the next edition of the Old Firm derby less than four days away, Rangers attacker Malik Tillman is confident that the Gers can take the crucial win if they play to their potential against their arch-rivals.
While Wednesday night’s 3-0 victory over Motherwell was by all means a resounding and important result for the Glasgow team, it was clear in post-game comments from Tillman, his teammates and head coach Michael Beale that the scoreline was masking some underlying faults.
With the coach admitting that he had “honest words” with the team about their first-half performance in the halftime break, Tillman gave a blunt and simple assessment of what was lacking in their opening phase in his extensive post game comments.
“In the first half we didn’t reach our level,” he admitted. “The second half was a bit better, but all in all I think we can still improve a lot.”
“Hopefully we’re going to have a better game on Monday [against Celtic],” he concluded, looking ahead to Monday’s derby.
Even though the team is hardly at a crisis point, having won their last four league games on the bounce, two of those did involve overturning second-half deficits. For Tillman, this does reinforce their need to continually improve, but he also points towards a positive indication about the team’s mentality.
“For example, in the game against Aberdeen, we scored [twice] in the last few minutes and we also came back against Hibs,” he posited, continuing “It’s a mentality thing to come back to win games, and we try give our best every game and win every game.”
For the four-times capped USMNT player, Wednesday’s game was a special experience, not only because of his success on the field, but also because he did provide the fireworks for familiar faces in the crowd.
“I’m always happy to score or assist, and today I [did it] in front of my family,” he beamed. “That pleased me a lot.”
Addressing what he sees as his most effective deployment on the field, the versatile 20 year-old does point out that his priority is to execute whatever plan Beale thinks will help the team, however does admit to preferring a central role on the field.
“The team always comes first, and I’ll try to help them as best as I can,” he stated, although clarifying, “[My favorite position] is a mix between an 8 and a 10. I like to be between the lines [so I can] turn around and have the game in front of me. I think that’s my best position.”
Even though he is still relatively new to the Scottish game, the gravity and sigificance of Monday’s home game against Celtic does not escape him.
“Obviously it’s [going to be] a big game in Glasgow,” he recognizes. “We unfortunately lost the first game [in September] and we have to do a way better job than we did [then].”
Despite the 4-0 loss in that first meeting, and the current nine-point gap in the standings, he has no doubts whatsoever that they have the tools, ability and motivation to take the win, with the home crowd also being a major factor in his confidence.
“If we reach our level, I think we can beat them. [The game will be] in front of our fans, so we need them as well. If they do a good job, we’re going to do a great job as well.”
“Every game is important, but obviously this game is the biggest game we have in the whole season. We are nine points behind and we’ll try to close the gap. That’s why we need the win on Monday.”
“If we each our level and play the way we can play, we can beat anyone. We just have to focus on our game and that’s it.”
Ranger and Celtic kick off in Ibrox on Monday at 12:30pm local time, 7:30am Eastern US time.