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THE nightmares of November left Rangers reeling and critics claiming their season was over before Christmas.

A disastrous run not only put the SPL title out of sight, but also left many wondering if Alex McLeish's side could even secure European football for next season.

But a combination of resolute, if not entirely spectacular performances, and the return of several key players, has thrust the Ibrox side back into the mix in recent weeks.

Such was the damage done in the autumn, there is a 17-point chasm between Rangers and Celtic with 15 matches to go, and Gers have no chance of retaining their crown.

But Hearts' lead of 17 points has been eroded to just seven; Hibs, at one stage 11 ahead, are now only one in front. Second place and a Champions League slot is now a realistic target.

Big Marvin Andrews never gave up hope, as you would expect from a man who holds such strong beliefs.

And he insisted today that the continued hot pursuit of those above them is the sole focus for a Rangers team that has its steely gaze back.

The big Trinidadian stopper said: "We must stay focused on Rangers, not what is happening elsewhere. That policy has served us well in the past and will do so again.

"The manager, the players and the technical staff are all battling together to help us eat into the lead of the teams above us, and we are making steady progress.

"For me, the best characteristic of this team is that we keep coming back and proving people wrong when we've been written off.

"It happened last season a lot, and again this season. It has been said we are finished, but Rangers are never finished.

"You find out most about a team when backs are against the wall.

"We were down a few weeks ago, no doubt about it. But we believed in each other, that we had the strength to come back, and we are. That's nine games unbeaten and we have moved up the table.

"I always knew that things would change for us. Everyone has worked really hard to get us back on track, but we need to keep it going."

Andrews says the serious firepower Rangers now have up front is a reason for their support to stay optimistic that something can be salvaged from a poor domestic season.

Kris Boyd took his tally to five in three games with a double against Livi, while old gunslinger Dado Prso bagged a brace to remind the new boy he's still in town.

With Peter Lovenkrands, Nacho Novo and Thomas

Buffel all back to peak sharpness, McLeish at last has decent choice in his arsenal.

"The guys up front are giving the manager a problem. He has five quality strikers and he will have to go with what pairings and formations he thinks are right," says Marv.

"The strikers are all fit, they are scoring, and that's a great dilemma for him. The more competition the better, and that goes for the whole team, not just up front."

Andrews' contract extension is scheduled to kick in after a certain number of games. McLeish said a few weeks ago the figure had been passed and an extra year would be added when his current deal expires in the summer.

Andrews said: "I haven't had any talks yet. I think I have played enough games to get the extension.

"But I am not concerned about it right now. If God wants me to stay at Rangers, it will happen. If not, I will play my football somewhere else."