THE official line coming out of Blackburn Rovers may be that the club will not give up on the play-offs until it is mathematically impossible to do so.
But most supporters now accept that the top six now looks beyond their side.
Rovers missed the chance to close the gap on Reading to five points when they twice let leads carelessly slip from their grasp in Tuesday’s thrilling but infuriating 3-3 home draw with Brighton and Hove Albion.
That said, there are still seven matches to play and 21 points to play for and if Rovers can win the majority of their remaining games they could yet force their way into the play-offs.
However the major stumbling is that they have not been able to string more than two victories together all season.
In fact you have to go back more than six years to January 2008 for the last time Rovers won three matches in succession in a single season.
If that shocking statistic carries over to next season then that means the most number of games Gary Bowyer’s consistently inconsistent side can hope to win before the campaign is out is four.
That, without taking into consideration the results from their other three matches, would haul them up their current total of 53 points to up to 65, which is just five more than sixth-placed Reading currently have.
Last season Leicester secured sixth spot with 68 points – the fewest needed to qualify for the play-offs in the Championship’s 10-year history – so Rovers could match that tally with four wins and three draws.
But to finish above Reading that would require the Royals, who have a vastly superior goal difference, to take a maximum of seven points from their final seven games.
But Nigel Adkins’ men are in indifferent form and only one of their final opponents – Middlesbrough – currently have no chance of going up or going down.
But what about the other four teams above Rovers?
Nottingham Forest, who currently have 58 points, have a slightly easier run-in but they are a side in freefall having failed to win any of their last nine league outings.
Stuart Pearce will take over at the City Ground but not until the end of the season with Gary Brazil in temporary charge for the final seven games of the season following the departure of Billy Davies.
In contrast Ipswich Town, who currently have 58 points coming into today’s clash with Rovers at Ewood Park are a team on the up and their final set of fixtures certainly look the most favourable on paper of all the place-off hopefuls.
Brighton, who are currently ninth with 57 points, looked no great shakes against Rovers in midweek.
They have not won in four matches but Bournemouth, who are currently 10th with 55 points, have real momentum behind them after six wins in their last eight games.
Seeing as they take on three of their top six rivals before the end of the season, they appear genuine dark horses.
As for Rovers? They are not out of the race but there is no question that they are on their last legs.
Just don’t expect to hear that officially quite yet.