STEVEN Gerrard says Alfredo Morelos’ summer graft is showing after the Colombian’s goals saw the Gers through to the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
The 22-year-old bagged his first hat-trick since joining the club last summer and should have had a fourth – his early strike was well over the line but not given.
Gerrard believes that the whole squad proved their fitness is at an all-time peak after recovering from a midweek trip to Slovenian to put in an “excellent” showing against Kilmarnock.
Speaking to RangersTV he said: “I am very pleased with this result, I think before the game this was a very tricky tie for us; because of the pitch, because we were coming back on the back of a European away performance and we had a lot of tired legs from that game.
“I think the attitude and application of the players again has been superb and every challenge that has been put in front of them so far they have answered it and in style.
“I thought today we were excellent and we thoroughly deserved to progress in the competition.
“We made it quite clear, not just to Alfredo but to the whole squad, that we wanted them as fit as we could get them.
“We wanted them to improve their shape, their body weight and every single aspect and it is for this reason – so they are ready to put in a right good shift but then recover quickly and do it again.
“If we are going to be successful then we are going to have to face an awful lot of games and the only way you can do that is to be in the best shape you can be in.
“Alfredo has been excellent, on and off the pitch, and again he showed his quality today with three incredible goals and he could have had more.
“Long may that continue because he is a big weapon for us. His early one was a clear goal, everyone knows that.”
Despite the win the Rangers dressing room was low after the game following the early injury to Jamie Murphy.
The winger was forced off on a stretcher in the 17th minute after twisting his knee and the Gers boss said the whole team were behind the former Brighton man, who left Rugby Park on crutches.
Nikola Katic too took a blow, the Croatian having his head heavily bandaged in the second-half after a clash.
He continued: “Jamie is very low at the moment, he is down and upset and you can understand that. He is concerned that he is going to be out for long time.
“We will keep our fingers crossed and pray and hopefully he can get some good news when he is assessed and has a scan on it.
“Whatever happens we will give him the support he needs, he is a top player and he is a big player for us. We will do whatever we can to get him back as quickly as possible.
“I think it is a sign that we have two top central defenders, not just on the ball but they are willing to compete in whatever is thrown at them, whether it be physical or quick.
“They are capable of handling themselves and they were brave today, they hung in there and they both took big knocks – Niko to the head and Connor took a bad dead leg.
“They don’t even look at you when I am asking them how they are; they are two tough tough boys.”
Rangers will play Ayr United in the quarter-finals of the BetFred Cup now and Gerrard was pleased with the pairing.
He said: “I am happy with the draw, I am always happy to get a home draw and I think in these competitions, you learn over the years, you just face whatever is thrown at you.
“It is Ayr United of the Championship this time; they are on the back of a good result. I think they come as underdogs to Ibrox so it will be our responsibility to make sure they don’t put a shock on.”