Ever since their return to the Championship, Blackburn Rovers have shown plenty of signs that they are capable of mounting a push for a play-off place, only to be then left frustrated by a struggle to maintain that form.
This season appears to be no different, with Tony Mowbray’s side once again enduring some consistently inconsistent form across the campaign, that has left fans encouraged and disappointed in almost equal measure over the past few months.
What that means however, is that with nine games of the current campaign still to be played, Rovers do still find themselves in contention to compete for a place in the top-six this season, and with that, the chance of a first return to the Premier League since 2012.
So is that something that could potentially be on the cards for Blackburn over the course of the next few months?
Here, in our latest six point opinion piece, we take a look at what has been and what is still to come in their season, in order to find out.
Firstly, how has the season gone to date?
“In many ways, it has followed a similar pattern to the previous campaign.
“Rovers have once again enjoyed some extended runs of positive results, which have seen them move to within touching distance of the play-off places on a number of occasions.
“However, they have them been followed up with some more disappointing runs of results, which have then served to move the play-offs out of reach again.
“Consequentially, Rovers will now have to finish the season with one of their brighter runs of form, if they are to have any hope of breaking into the top-six.”
What have been the main issues for Rovers this season?
“Injuries across the pitch haven’t helped.
“In attack and midfield, season-ending and long-term injuries to the likes of Bradley Dack, Lewis Holtby and Corry Evans have left the club lacking both a creative spark and dominant presence both going forward and in the centre of the park.
“Further down the pitch, an ACL injury to Cardiff loanee Greg Cunningham has made left-back something of a problem position for Mowbray, whose side have also struggled to cope with the occasional absences of Darragh Lenihan in the centre of their defence, who been absent through both injury and suspension at times this season.
“It also seems as though Blackburn have struggled to cope with expectations at times, often struggling to break down sides at the wrong end of the table, having suffered defeats to two sides currently inside the relegation zone – Charlton and Luton – at Ewood Park, while also being held to draws by several other struggling sides – including Stoke, Huddersfield and Wigan – on their own turf.”
Who have been Blackburn’s standout performers this season?
“There are plenty of individuals who deserve shout outs for their contributions to Rovers’ cause this season.
“After a shaky start to his time at Ewood Park, on-loan Brighton ‘keeper Christian Walton has become a key figure in goal for Mowbray’s side, while in front of him, the aforementioned Lenihan and Tosin Adarabioyo – another loanee, this time from Manchester City – have formed an effective partnership in the centre of defence – with Ryan Nyambe going from strength to strength at right-back.
“In midfield, Lewis Travis continues to be an increasingly dominant figure for Rovers in the holding role, while 35-year-old’s Stewart Downing’s fitness and versatility since his summer move from Middlesbrough have been a revelation.
“Upfront meanwhile, Adam Armstrong has stepped to fill the void left by Dack brilliantly, with his 11 league goals – six of which have come since Dack’s injury in late December – putting him top of the club’s scoring charts.”
So where do Rovers stand heading into the final nine games of the season?
“In short, they are still in with a shout of the play-offs.
“As things stand, Blackburn are tenth in the Championship, but more importantly, only three points off Preston heading into those final games of the season, a deficit which there is more than enough time to overcome.
“However, they will need to come up with a quick turnaround in form if they are going to manage that.
“Rovers are currently winless in their last four games, with three straight draws followed up by a dismal 3-0 defeat at Derby last time out, meaning they have already passed up some decent opportunities to break into the top-six, potentially putting the pressure on them not to slip up again in the final run-in.”
What does their run-in look like?
“It is unlikely to be an easy one.
“Of their four remaining home games, three are against teams chasing promotion, with the current top two – Leeds and West Brom – and seventh-placed Bristol City all still to make the trip to Ewood Park, with mid-table Reading their fourth scheduled visitor.
“Things on the road could also be tricky, with Rovers still having to make the trip to three times battling against relegation to League One, in the shape of Wigan, Barnsley and Luton.
“Visits to play-off dark horses Cardiff – who have lost just twice in 18 home league games this season – and Millwall are unlikely to be easy tasks either.”
Finally, how could the current delay in fixtures impact on Blackburn?
“There is an argument that these postponements could actually benefit them.
“As has been mentioned, Rovers’ form hasn’t been great recently, so the extended break could give them time to go away, reset and regroup ahead of the final run-in, whenever that may be.
“It could also allow some of their more experienced players such as Downing the chance to enjoy a well-earned rest, while also giving them a boost in the injury department, with Holtby previously stating he was hopeful of featuring in the play-offs if the club reach that stage.
“Consequentially, any further delays may give the attacking midfielder the chance of returning for the latter part of the regular season, although it remains to be seen whether a similar situation could emerge around the club’s other long-term injury absentees, Dack and Evans.”