IT seems someone at Ibrox is a fan of cult 80s movie Beetlejuice. How else to explain the apparent reluctance of Steven Gerrard to say a certain word in his post-match interview at Rugby Park for fear that a nightmarish green and white vision would appear and wreak terrible havoc upon his season?

Unfortunately for Gerrard, that gruesome scenario has already come to pass. Like the characters in that Tim Burton classic, you can choose to live in denial and even refuse to utter the C word if you like, but Rangers’ dreams of ending “their opponent’s” stranglehold on the Scottish Premiership title this season have already been administered their very own Handbook for the Recently Deceased.

In Scottish football, the one word you probably shouldn't say is never, but Wednesday evening felt like a defining moment.

Just six weeks ago, at Celtic Park, it felt as if Rangers had planted a flag at the home of their great rivals as they attempted to wrest the one fluttering above the stadium for the best part of a decade from Celtic’s grasp.

On Wednesday evening on the same ground, the Celtic supporters watched their team crush Hearts, while Rangers were flagging at that habitual graveyard for their title aspirations down in Kilmarnock.

Gerrard has undoubtedly been good for Rangers and for the Premiership. His star quality has lifted the profile of both his club and the country, and he has backed this up by improving the Ibrox side from the shambolic ragtag bunch that he inherited.

But that is not enough for the Ibrox boss to now escape serious scrutiny after his team failed to ride the crest of a wave for the second season running, finding themselves floundering yet again just weeks after that high in late December.

Celtic, and Neil Lennon of course, deserve credit for the eight wins in a row they have subsequently racked up, but the spotlight is now firmly on Gerrard to explain why his side have gone from outplaying the champions on their own patch to spilling eight points in the seven league games since.

To be fair, it wasn’t just Celtic Gerrard left without a name in his post-match post-mortem. He accepted his own fair share of culpability before savaging his players for lacking the required minerals and mentality to mount a serious title challenge. It has been a recurring theme.

When they dropped points at Tynecastle in September, Gerrard said: "We started really badly - wrong mentality, wrong attitude.”

When they threw away a two-goal lead to draw at Pittodrie in December, he said: “The tide turned, we couldn’t handle the pressure.”

When losing to Hearts last month, the bottom side in the league, remember, who have now taken four points from Rangers, Gerrard opined: “I didn’t recognise us from the start of the game to the finish. Hearts deserved the win. They brushed us off the pitch, they rattled us, they’ve dominated us in the ugly side of the game.”

After the latest setback, it is the mentality of his players that Gerrard is again calling into question.

“We never handled the heat or the pressure,” he said. “We never played like a team that was trying to fight to remain in a title race.”

In fairness, he went on to say: “But I’m responsible for that. I put this group together. I coach them, they are my tactics and decisions. So, I’m not going to sit here and try and force any blame in any other direction than myself.”

It makes you wonder though just how long it will be before the Rangers supporters start to apportion blame to Gerrard too, if they haven’t already. Because of his legendary status within the game and the gravitas he has brought back to the Rangers dugout, Gerrard has undoubtedly been afforded more grace than his unheralded predecessors.

The performances and wins over Celtic help too, but while he has shown he can produce a side that can compete with their rivals over 90 minutes, he hasn't yet produced a side capable of competing with them over the course of a season.

Any criticism of Gerrard now should not be viewed as bandwagon-jumping. It's not unreasonable to question the manager and his inability to affect games so soon after he was lauded for his tactics in the win at Celtic Park given what has transpired since.

Let’s not forget, the parameters for judging the success of Gerrard during his Ibrox tenure have been set by the man himself.

In March last year, Gerrard said: "If I don’t win the next three or four things that are available maybe I won’t be here speaking to you. I’m aware of that."

Celtic have added a league title, a Scottish Cup and a Betfred Cup since that declaration. Three of the next four competitions that Gerrard referenced have come and gone, and the Ibrox trophy cabinet still lies bare.

Following his own logic, if neither this season’s league trophy is secured nor the Scottish Cup as a consolation prize, do the Rangers board - or Gerrard - have a decision to make?

I think they do. It feels like we are entering a defining chapter in Gerrard’s story at Rangers, and if he wants it to have a happy ending, he has to find a way to address the weak mentality he so often references.

Otherwise, to go back to our old pal Beetlejuice, as much as it may stick in Gerrard’s throat, the name etched on the three trophies at the end of the season will once again be ‘Celtic, Celtic, Celtic.’