BLACKBURN Rovers boss Gary Bowyer insists the disheartening derby defeat to Burnley does not mean his side’s season is over.
Rovers went down to their high-flying rivals for the first time in 35 years yesterday and Bowyer admits there was a ‘lot of hurt’ in the dressing room following the 2-1 loss.
But with 13 games still to play he wants Rovers, who missed the chance to close the gap on sixth-placed Reading to three points, to channel their hurt into launching one final push for the play-offs.
Bowyer said: “We’ve got to go again now, we’ve got to regroup.
“We’ve got 13 big games left and people will probably write us off from the play-offs because of this result.
“But that’s not the right thing to do because there’s only six points in it, we’ve got a game in hand on one or two teams around us and, as I say, there’s 13 games left.
“We’re now getting people back from injury and it’s important we keep them fit and get the others who are out back into contention and finish as strongly as we possibly can.”
Burnley’s historic victory moved them eight points clear of the play-off places in second.
Bowyer believes the stability the Clarets have enjoyed this season – their manager Sean Dyche has named the same line-up for the last eight matches – is one of the main reasons why they are in line for automatic promotion and why Rovers face a fight to get into the top six.
Bowyer added: “They are second in the league and you think they would get automatic promotion.
“That’s from having a settled squad and you could argue that’s over 12 months now and not just this season.
“That’s something we’ve been working very hard towards.
“You look at what’s happened over the previous years here and we are making progress in terms of reducing the wage bill and reducing the squad and still being competitive. Of the result he added:
“There wasn’t a lot in it.”
With Matt Kilgallon sidelined through injury Bowyer handed Michael Keane his full debut fresh from signing the 21-year Manchester United centre-back on loan until the end of the campaign.
“I thought he did ever so well,” said Bowyer, who brought his other new loan recruit, Millwall winger Liam Feeney, off the bench.
“Michael has only been with us for two days and done two training sessions but I thought he acquitted himself very well in such a fierce derby.”
Neither centre-back Kilgallon nor key midfielder Tom Cairney will be fit for Wednesday’s clash with Bournemouth at Ewood Park.
Kilgallon, who has a groin strain, may be fit in time for Saturday’s trip to Huddersfield Town.
But midfielder Cairney, who has an ankle injury, is expected to be out for another two weeks.