Steven Gerrard admits Rangers have only got themselves to blame for not finishing off their Europa League opener with Shkupi.
The new Light Blues boss needed a stoppage-time penalty from skipper James Tavernier to give his side some breathing space ahead of next Tuesday’s return with the Macedonians as they battled to a 2-0 first-leg win.
Jamie Murphy opened the scoring for Rangers midway through the first half but Josh Windass, Alfredo Morelos and Connor Goldson were all guilty of big misses that could have made the affair a whole lot more comfortable.
Tavernier’s last-gasp spot-kick did at least ease concerns the Light Blues were set for a repeat of last season’s shock first-round exit to Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn.
But Gerrard confessed improvements need to be made after an underwhelming start to his managerial career.
The former Liverpool and England midfielder said: “I think we are satisfied with the result and parts of the performance. But I don’t think it’s any better than satisfactory.
“There is still a lot of work to do and we are still in a game. We have to make sure we perform when we go out there.
“I thought we should have won it more comfortably if we were a bit sharper in front of goal. We take 2-0 but I’m slightly disappointed we didn’t win it more comfortably.
“I felt we should have had the game done by the time we got the second goal with the chances we created. They were very good chances.
“Maybe if you’re being over-critical you probably say we have to sharpen up in front of goal and maybe we will have to blame ourselves for not putting the complete tie to bed tonight.”
Murphy finished off a smart move led by Tavernier as his shot squirmed through a ruck of legs before wrong-footing Shkupi keeper Suat Zendeli.
But Windass, Morelos and Goldson all failed to bury big headed chances as Rangers struggled to go up through the gears.
New signing Ovie Ejaria – one of six summer signings handed their debuts – had a strong penalty appeal turned down after making his maiden appearance off the bench.
But German referee Christian Dingert did point to the spot when Amir Bilali tripped Murphy at the death and Tavernier made no mistake as he put daylight between the teams.
Gerrard admitted last year’s Progres disaster may have affected some of his side but believes they can now go on and seal a second-round berth against Croatians NK Osijek.
“Maybe, maybe with some of the players who were here last year but I don’t think it would have been a concern for any of the new players because they never experienced it,” he said.
“But it was the first time some of them have played in front of a full house here with that atmosphere. The place was absolutely jumping.
“Players are going to take time to settle in and feel themselves.
“But having seen what I’ve seen tonight I’m very confident we can go there, score goals and get the right result.”