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Rangers can get better still after Tannadice rout, says Whittaker

Steven Whittaker may have played a major role in Rangers' 4-0 win over Dundee United on Tuesday night, but he admits the club can still do better as the crucial matches come thick and fast for the Scottish champions.

The defender scored twice from the penalty spot at Tannadice and missed a third spot-kick on a night when Mihael Kovacevic, Sean Dillon and Morgaro Gomis were all sent off for United.

Nikica Jelavic and Kyle Lafferty were also on the scoresheet as Rangers made the most of their numerical advantage to move four points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League. The win also means they head into this weekend's critical Old Firm derby in pole position.

Whittaker said: "We came here to get the points and the scoreline was pretty convincing in the end, but we can still play better than what we did. Any victory would have been ideal. To win 4-0 in the manner that we did was nice and it sets us up for the weekend.

"All you can ask for as a team and as a football player is to have it in your own hands. We don't want to rely on anyone else and we've got that."

The scoreline would have been even more convincing had Whittaker not blasted high and wide with his – and Rangers' – third penalty of the night but their manager, Walter Smith, refused to be too hard on the player who has struck six times from the spot this season.

He said: "It's not often someone gets the opportunity to take three penalties in the one game. Steven obviously had it in his mind to change where he was putting the ball and that affected his third one."

Rangers had squandered the opportunity to claim top spot in the SPL when they lost to United at Ibrox earlier this month and Smith felt a win at Tannadice was vital to take title matters back into their own hands again. He said: "We were happy to win the game, which was our main objective, so we are delighted with that aspect. The main thing is that we've got to keep winning.

"We placed that pressure on ourselves by losing a few weeks ago to Dundee United at home in a game that I felt we shouldn't have lost. We gave up an advantage in that game so we have to make sure we get it back when we play on Sunday."

Next up for Rangers is the highly anticipated final Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox this weekend – a match that could make or break either side's title aspirations.

Smith added: "We can look over the last few seasons and see that points have been dropped in the last five games but you can only concentrate on trying to do what you have to do. What we have to do is keep winning.

"I said that after the Dundee United game that we lost, that we had to go on a run of games if we hope to retain the championship. We have started that run and we need to make sure that we continue it."