Connor Goldson earns Rangers credit from within as selfless act underlines what he's all about

At six foot and three inches, lofty Leon Balogun stands every bit as tall as titanic team-mate Connor Goldson.

But the returning Rangers defender happily concedes he was left having to fill some pretty big boots when he stepped in to replace the Ibrox stalwart at Hampden. For the first time in his six year stay in Scotland, Goldson found himself a member of the Light Blues bomb squad as he was dropped for Gers’ Scottish Cup semi-final with Hearts.

The 31-year-old paid the price for two lacklustre displays in Dingwall and at Dens Park which have blown a huge hole in Ibrox hopes of a Premiership title push this term. But while Goldson was consigned to a seat on the bench, Balogun insists that did not stop the club’s vice-captain from standing firm in the build-up to the last-four shoot out as he insisted upon playing his usual role at the national stadium as one of the team’s leading voices.

It would have been easy for the big defender to skulk off and spend the warm-up limbering up with the rest of the subs. Instead, Goldson kept his head high as he joined with the starters while they went through their preparations, adding his pre-match pep talk on the pitch to the words of encouragement he’d already shared in the changing room. It was left to Balogun to take on Goldson’ in-game duties and the Nigeria international was just relieved he was able to match his old partner’s normally high standards.

“Connor is brilliant,” declared the 35-year-old. “He always is, whether he is playing or not. In terms of shoe size, I almost make it up to him! But it's big boots to fill and I feel like a lot of the time, he doesn't always get the credit he deserves. He is always vital and in terms of his communication on and off the pitch, his presence, it's not easy to replicate that. He encouraged everyone.”

Philippe Clement’s decision to thrust Balogun back into action wasn’t without its risks. The former Brighton, Wigan and QPR stopper hadn’t started a game since suffering a nasty head knock against Livingston at the start of February. And a dose of the sniffles delayed a return to action pencilled in ahead of that midweek draw at Dundee. But he left Hampden breathing easy as Cyriel Dessers’ double sealed Rangers’ place in the May 25 final showdown with Celtic.

Asked how he felt at the end of a taxing 90 minutes, Balogun said: "Tired! I mean, it got tough, especially when the sun came out - I would have preferred it to stay cloudy or rainy even if we've had a lot of that recently. I think it was eight or nine weeks since I have been playing, and then I was ill at the beginning of the week and only really got back on my feet on Thursday.

"I had some sort of flu. I was down for a few days, and didn't feel great. But it was good to get out there again. You have to grind it out and back yourself again and feel good about yourself. I'm happy I did well. I think the idea was there [that I’d have played at Dundee], but I can't really say because before I even knew I lay down flat and was sent back home from the team hotel.”

Clement now faces a major call on whether to stick by Balogun or hand Goldson a reprieve when his side head to Paisley for Sunday’s vital clash with St Mirren. But Balogun is happy to abide by whatever his boss decides.

"Obviously you always want to play,” he said. “But for me, at this point, if you think back to October, and then think about the situation we are in now, you would have signed for it. Even if you look at the past week, we could have put ourselves in a better position, but for me it is about being strong as a team. Whether that is me, Ben Davies, Connor Goldson starting, for me at the end of the day it is about what we want to do for the club. We serve at the end of the day and we have a big challenge there in front of us and it takes everyone.

“If it is me I'll be happy. I think I've proven enough during my spell here that I am a team player.”

Regardless of what happens in the league, Rangers will have one more shot at adding to their Viaplay Cup win this term. But Balogun believes reaching the Scottish Cup final could have positive ramifications for Gers’ as they look to overturn a three-point Premiership deficit.

He said: "I think Sunday’s win was very important for us. [The slip ups against Ross County and Dundee] happened within one week and everything we had done before went out of the window all of a sudden. At least that's what it felt like, so it was very important for us to switch back on. The manager did very well this week to remind us of what we're really good at and what we've done despite not performing to our best.

“And then on Sunday, it was normal that we potentially had some tough spells. I think we can be really proud as a group of the way we showed resilience and the way we came through those spells.

“Super Jack Butland in goal doing his job is always helpful! But I think we did enough to win that game deservedly. It's not a surprise that there were moments where it was like 'they don't really look themselves' but we have to get our confidence back. I think that performance should give us a big boost.”