Rangers: James Tavernier mystified by post-break slump for second season in row
Captain James Tavernier says he has been left mystified by Rangers' repeat of last season's mid-season title challenge collapse.
Steven Gerrard's side started 2020 two points behind Celtic but with a game in hand after winning 2-1 away to the Scottish Premiership leaders.
But, after Wednesday's 2-1 loss away to Kilmarnock, they have shed eight points in five league games since.
"I honestly can't answer for the last two Januarys," Tavernier said.
"We've gone from ending the year on a high both times and putting ourselves into good positions and then coming back and I can't put my finger on what's happening."
A year ago, Gerrard's side also entered January's winter break on a high after an Old Firm derby win only to lose at Rugby Park.
This time, away losses to Hearts and Kilmarnock, plus a goalless draw with Aberdeen at Ibrox, have left the Ibrox side 10 points adrift of their city rivals.
"We're not getting out of the blocks at the start of the year and it's costing us," Tavernier said.
"We've made it harder for ourselves, definitely. We had it in our hands and knew what we had to do. It was as clear as day.
"Go all the way until the end of the season unbeaten and we'd be in a very good position, but now we've made it very hard for ourselves with a shocking display in the second half at Kilmarnock."
Scott Arfield put Rangers ahead just after the half-hour mark, but goals from Stephen O'Donnell and Eamonn Brophy in the final 13 minutes left Gerrard questioning his side's mentality to challenge for the title.
"We've been in this situation a few times where we go to a ground and the crowd sniffs out opportunities and we simply don't deal with it," Tavernier said.
"We were in a great position after the first half. We were controlling the game, they didn't have many chances, we were creating some without being clinical.
"Second half, we go out and we're still in the driving seat at 1-0 up. It was said at half-time: a clean sheet will win the game, but since we've been back after the mid-season break, we've been conceding terrible goals."
Rangers now need to win both remaining derbies and hope Celtic also slip up elsewhere if the Ibrox side are to prevent Neil Lennon's team securing a ninth title in a row.
"We never get opportunities to score goals like that ever in a season and it's criminal we are conceding them as a team," Tavernier added.
"If you want to be competing for a title, you can't be conceding those type of goals."