It had all been going so well for Blackburn Rovers on their return to the Championship, four wins from four league games in January had seen a Player and Manager of the Month award double for Rovers in the form of Adam Armstrong and Tony Mowbray respectively, and whispers of a shot at the playoffs were starting to grow louder.
Since then, however, things have all gone wrong.
Rovers have picked up just a single point from seven games since the start of February, and a string of defensive errors combined with the goals drying up for those at the opposite end of the field mean that many are starting to wonder just where the next win will come from.
In fairness, most teams experience such a run at some point throughout such a long season, and an eleven point buffer to the relegation zone with ten games to go means they should have enough in hand to avoid a swift return to the third tier, but nothing is yet certain, and now the injuries are starting to pile up as well.
After Charlie Mulgrew limped out of Saturday’s defeat to Preston to join Darragh Lenihan and Jack Rodwell on the injury list, and with Paul Downing having been sent out on loan to Doncaster in January, Rovers go into Tuesday night’s meeting with relegation battlers Wigan without a senior centre back available.
If that makeshift defence fails to hold against Wigan, and even possibly Sheffield Wednesday the following Saturday, then things really could start to get nervy, and that will bring Rovers early season slip-ups back into focus.
Throughout the first half of the season, Mowbray’s side made a habit of giving away leads late on in games: to a speculative ball into the area at Ipswich on the opening day; Connor Hourihane’s 93rd minute free kick Aston Villa; Nottingham Forest’s controversial late penalty and Birmingham coming from two down to 2-2 in three minutes all turning three points into one, and that’s before you get onto the Boxing Day stoppage time debacle at Leeds.
When you add all these points together it gives you a tally that, even with the current run, would have Rovers inside the playoff places.
That, however, was never really the aim for Rovers this season, with “consolidation” the keyword used by Mowbray throughout the course of the campaign. It still appears Rovers are just a few points away from doing that and settling any lasting nerves around Ewood, but had they seen out even just one or two of those early season slip-ups, there wouldn’t even be any nerves to begin with.