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Play-off aim is Spurring us on, says Blackburn Rovers defender
THERE may be 17 games of the campaign to go but ever-present Tommy Spurr insists Blackburn Rovers cannot leave anything to chance in their push for the play-offs.
Spurr – the only Rovers player to start every Championship match this season – reckons the top five are beginning to pull away from the chasing pack.
That is why the left-back believes it is more important than ever for Gary Bowyer’s eighth-placed side to embark on a winning run.
Rovers have made it back-to-back victories on four occasions this term.
Three points today at 12th-placed Middlesbrough – another team with ambitions of gatecrashing the top six – would take that tally up to five and keep the pressure on Reading in sixth.
But Spurr knows that must only be the start now that Nottingham Forest, Derby County, bitter rivals Burnley and QPR look set to battle it out for the top three play-off spots with leaders Leicester looking on course for an automatic promotion place.
“As we have been saying, if we do want to get in the top six we are going to have to go on a run,” said Spurr, who will wear a bandage around his head at the Riverside today after a nasty gash against Blackpool last weekend left him requiring nine stitches.
“Reading are on on a run, scoring goals for fun and looking good.
“So we need to go to Middlesbrough and put in an away performance that warrants the three points.
“But it is not easy in this division – everyone knows anyone can beat anyone.
“We feel we have played consistently well at times, it’s just that results haven’t gone our way – whether it’s the rub of the green with decisions, or mistakes.
“But if we do want to get in the top six we do need to get on that run as the top five are kind of pulling away a little bit.
“We can’t afford too many slip ups, starting at Middlesbrough.”
Rovers will make the trip to the Riverside in confident mood.
After two frustrating draws they returned to winning ways last weekend with a 2-0 home success over Blackpool at Ewood Park.
Rovers let three points slip from their grasp after taking the lead in both of their previous games, at home to Derby County and away to Barnsley.
And Spurr, 26, feared it could have been a similar outcome against the struggling Seasiders.
But, thanks to a late goal from new club captain Grant Hanley, his fears proved unfounded.
“We were worthy winners and we should have won by more,” said Spurr.
“We didn’t punish Barnsley enough and we probably didn’t punish Blackpool enough.
“But we did keep a clean sheet, got the two goals and got the three points – and that’s what it was all about, getting the three points.”
The match was the first since skipper Scott Dann’s departure to Crystal Palace on transfer deadline day.
Before his exit to Selhurst Park Rovers had failed to win any of the five games in which Dann had not featured in this season.
But Spurr had no doubt that former Leeds United, Sheffield United and Sunderland centre-back Matt Kilgallon would be a strong replacement for the departed captain.
“Matt’s got Premier League experience, he’s played hundreds of games, so for someone like him to come in is great,” said Spurr, a free transfer arrival at Ewood Park from Doncaster in August.
“He’s a good defender and comfortable on the ball, so he’s a massive plus for us and he will help us.”
Spurr has helped Rovers keep 10 clean sheets this season. He has also contributed two goals – away to Wigan Athletic and the winner at home to his hometown team Leeds – and that makes him the most prolific of Bowyer’s defenders.
“The gaffer has said to us defenders that we have to start contributing more goals,” said Spurr.
“That’s why I was delighted to see Grant score on Saturday. “It was a great way for him to start as club captain and it didn’t surprise me as he’s such a big threat in the air. “If we all start contributing hopefully that will help us get more wins.
“Every game between now and the end of the season is big.”