Blackburn Rovers are currently just three points behind Lancashire rivals Preston North End as they chase down a spot in the Sky Bet Championship play-offs.
Rovers are not a side that many would have touted for a position in the top six at the start of the campaign, but Tony Mowbray and his side have quietly snuck their way into contention for a place in the end of season lottery.
For a side that finished in 15th place in the Championship just last season, 14 points behind Derby County, who secured that final spot in the top six, it is quite the transformation from the Lancashire outfit. The form of Bradley Dack and Danny Graham in the early part of the season meant that Rovers were not looking over their shoulders to the bottom three.
Yet, not many Rovers fans would’ve believed that they would still have something positive to play for as we enter March.
Here are three factors that will define whether Blackburn can sneak their way into the top six…
Turning draws into wins
Rovers have drawn their last three games which means they’ve dropped six points which has allowed their play-off rivals climb above them . A respectable point down in the capital against free-scoring Brentford was followed up by a dull 0-0 draw with Stoke City. A team with ambitions to have at least two extra games in May can not afford to be dropping points against sides low down the table and low in confidence. This can often make a break a team’s top six credentials.
They followed that home draw with yet another, this time to Swansea City. Whilst they didn’t lose and allow Swansea to climb above them, a home win could have boosted their chances even further. Without a Bradley Johnson leveller in the 95th minute the picture with 10 to play could be a lot bleaker for Mowbray’s men.
Beating Bristol City
If Blackburn are serious about finishing inside the top six this season, they are going to need to put fellow members of the chasing pack to the sword, specifically at home. After an away trip to Derby County, Blackburn will entertain Bristol City, a side who are just one point and one place above them in the Sky Bet Championship.
If Rovers can come anywhere close to replicating the outstanding 2-0 win they had at Ashton Gate earlier in the season then they could give themselves a good chance of gate crashing the top six party. They would leapfrog the Robins and could potentially be level on points with Lancashire rivals Preston North End.
With Dack and fellow midfielder Lewis Holtby already ruled out for the rest of the season, the last thing that the Blackburn boss will want is to pick up more bumps and bruises to key members of his squad. Dack had provided nine goals from midfield in just 22 games before undergoing surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament in January, with the attacking midfielder not set to return until half way through next season.
With Blackburn still having something to play for, there will be an edge to the majority of their games, with injuries becoming part and parcel of the competitive growing nature of the game.
Should other key figures of the Rovers squad pick up knocks between now and May, their chances of returning to the Premier League could take a knock itself.