NOW that Rangers have successfully negotiated the Celtic game at Parkhead there is an altogether more difficult proposition facing them – doing the same thing in matches against the likes of Dundee, Hamilton, St. Johnstone and Kilmarnock.

How Graeme Murty must wish his side can play Brendan Rodgers’s team away every other week given how well they perform against them whenever they do.

The Ibrox club, steadfast at the back and dangerous in attack, thoroughly merited the point they took at Celtic Park on Saturday. Had they picked up all three it wouldn’t have flattered them.

Both Craig Gordon, who denied James Tavernier and Alfredo Morelos brilliantly in the second half, and Wes Foderingham, who kept out Moussa Dembele, Scott Sinclair and James Forrest in the first, certainly had busy afternoons in goal.

But Gordon’s saves, from Morelos in particular, were exceptional. The visitors, who grew in confidence as the game wore on and were dominant by the end, arguably had the better chances. Their players considered the result two points dropped rather than one point gained afterwards.

The impromptu “Bouncy” which broke out among the away support as the game wore on spoke volumes. How many times has that group display of happiness been seen at a Scottish football ground of late? Not very often and especially not in games against their greatest rivals.

Given that Graham Dorrans, Ryan Jack, Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace were all missing and Bruno Alves limped off injured early on it was an utterly remarkable display. How would they have fared had they been anywhere near full strength? It will be fascinating finding out in 2018.

Yet, Rangers excelled when they travelled across the city to play Celtic when Murty was interim manager back in March. They had been written off on that occasion as well and scrapped their way to a 1-1 draw. Their manager clearly revels in the big occasion.

But it is all well and good producing a rousing showing against the Scottish champions in a one-off game and being showered with plaudits for it. Lots of teams manage that. Playing Celtic is, as the old saying goes, like a cup final for their oppoennts. Can they, though, do it every week?

The challenge facing the Ibrox manager now is ensuring his men can maintain the same high level of performance on a weekly basis during the second half of the season. His future employment will depend on it.

Murty’s side have lost to Dundee twice, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Hamilton, St. Johnstone and Kilmarnock this year. His record against lesser opposition is as poor as his record against the top teams is impressive. It must improve if he is to keep his job beyond the summer.

This 0-0 draw should by no means be misinterpreted as the balance of power in Scottish football shifting. Had Celtic converted one of the opportunities they created in the opening 45 minutes, and they had a fair few, the final outcome would have been different. James Forrest and Scott Sinclair, in particular, should have netted.

Many of Rodgers’s men, who have played five months of non-stop domestic, European and in many cases international matches since July, looked weary. Moussa Dembele, Mikael Lustig and Sinclair will benefit from the winter break.

The same can’t be said of Kristoffer Ajer. The 19-year-old Norwegian was preferred to Jozo Simunovic in defence and more than justified his selection. The confidence he exhibited bursting upfield with the ball at his feet was startling. He wasn’t the only youngster to distinguish himself in what was a typically rumbustious derby.

Ross McCrorie, who had committed his future to Rangers by signing a new contract the day before, showed why his former manager Pedro Caixinha believes he has such a bright future ahead of him. His contemporary David Bates, meanwhile, was a revelation after taking over from Alves.

Rangers went rapidly backwards following their last game at Parkhead nine months ago due mainly to the ineptitude of their manager Caixinha. There is little prospect of that happening now with the Portuguese coach having departed.

If Murty can offload some of those who haven’t been featuring during the January transfer window and strengthen, even just by bringing back loan players Joe Dodoo, Andy Halliday and Michael O’Halloran, they should improve.

Rodgers and Celtic, of course, will not take this disappointment lying down and will doubtless come back with a renewed focus and a point to prove.