ELEVEN goals with five games still to go is a more than decent return for any midfielder over a season. Such players tend to fit into the invaluable category which makes the lack of transfer paid for this footballer a huge bonus,

Scott Arfield moved to double figures at Fir Park with two superbly first-half taken goals before Jermain Defoe unselfishly set him up for the first hat-trick of his career, He has a solid claim to be Steven Gerrard’s best outfield permanent signing so far.

The 30-year-old Canadian international was helped enormously some calamitous defending by Motherwell which left manager Stephen Robinson wondering what he had done to deserve to watch so many unforced errors.

However, nothing should be taken away from Arfield’s superb first-time finishes and all-round play. He enjoyed an excellent day.

Rangers as a team, once they got going, played good football. Without the suspended Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos, they were strong in the final third and might have scored a few more.

Motherwell contributed their bit to an entertaining Sunday in Lanarkshire but as adventurous as they were in attack at times, they let themselves down at the back – the story of their season.

So, Steven Gerrard left Fir Park with three points and also just maybe second thoughts about Jake Hastie

The Rangers manager last week ended his interest in Motherwell’s 20-year-old because it was taking too long to get a deal done. However, a man is allowed to change his mind.

Hastie, especially in the first-half, gave Rangers’ left-back Jon Flannigan a dreadful time of it with his pace, power and willingness to taken on and beat the defender. He did this often.

The left-sided attacker, he played as a winger in this game, has the raw qualities in a young player that any manager would like to help develop. Rangers could do with such a direct wide-man who is always available for a long ball such is his desire to get behind the back line.

Not that Hastie was needed here.

Rangers were clinical and professional, Motherwell careless and wasteful. The game was more or less done by half-time after a strange 45 minutes in which the home side played some nice football, Hastie caused problems and yet avoidable mistakes and Arfield meant that Gerrard’s men were 2-0 ahead.

Motherwell did begin brightly. A fine early run from Gboly Ariyibi almost led him into the Rangers box but he couldn’t quite get past a third blue shirt. From a corner on the quarter hour, Tom Aldred leap highest and put his header across the Rangers goal.

Hastie was doing his stuff on the left, Rangers were second best, and then they took the lead on 22 minutes.

Daniel Candeias played a pass through the middle to Defoe whose attempt to flick the ball to Arfield wasn’t quite how he’d wanted, which meant the covering Aldred was in position to clear. Instead, the Motherwell defender knocked the ball perfectly into the path of Arfield who is far too good a player not accept such a gift.

Motherwell’s best opportunity for an equaliser came on 33 minutes when Richard Tait’s long cross-field pass was wonderfully controlled by, who else, Hastie, who then cut his way past a couple of Rangers players before being closed down as he was about the shoot.

Rangers had the game sewn up with seven minutes of the half to go.

Motherwell tried to play out from the back when a good old-fashioned clearance would have done. Candeias robbed David Turnbull just outside the penalty area and passed to Ryan Jack. He played the ball to Arfield, in acres of space, and his shot over Mark Gillespie was exquisite.

All Motherwell could do in response was to get two of their men booked before half-time. Curtis Main and Nikola Katic had a running battle all half – sometimes there was even a ball – and the Motherwell striker earned himself a deserved booking for being robust in challenge in the air with the Rangers defender.

Liam Grimshaw’s name soon appeared in referee Nick Walsh’s book for putting Glen Kamara on his backside.

If Robinson’s side were to mount a comeback then Hastie was going to be their hero. On 58 minutes, he cut past Kamara and Conor Goldson before putting his left foot through the ball for a shot which Allan McGregor read which meant he was able to deal comfortably with it.

Within two minutes, Arfield took ownership of the match ball. He should have got the Motherwell defenders to sign it.

Motherwell keeper Gillespie’s attempted pass to Alex Gorrin was over-ambitious to say the least, possession was lost, Turnbull tried and failed to win back the loose ball which fell kindly to Defoe who could easily have scored but instead squared for Arfield who was never going to miss.

The Englishman is just three goals away from a career total of 300 which made his unselfishness even more impressive.

But then Defoe missed a great chance for goal number 298. It was Charles Dunne’s time to make a mistake, gifting possession to the 36-year-old who saw his initial shot saved by Gillespie and he then missed the rebound. Most unexpected.

By the end, this was a simple win which cut Celtic’s lead to eleven points and that might delay their old rival’s title win by a week or so – which is all Rangers can do now.

What Gerrard must do next is to fine one or two more like Arfield who quite rightly milked the applause from the Rangers fans at the end of what his best game in a blue jersey.