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Paul Wheelock column: Injury jinx hinders Rovers ambitions
IF Rovers have been one thing this season it is consistently inconsistent.
Has it been frustrating? Certainly. But has it been surprising? Certainly not.
How could it be when Rovers are essentially a brand new team put together by a manager who is still cutting his teeth at Championship level?
There were always going to be bumps in the road.
But what hasn’t helped is the sheer amount of injuries Rovers have suffered.
Now injuries cannot excuse the way the players’ performed in the defeats to Doncaster, Ipswich, Bolton and Bournemouth.
Nor should they detract from the fact there have been times this season when more senior managers have used their time-served experience to get one over Gary Bowyer.
But there is no doubt in my mind that the gap to the play-off places would be shorter than eight points if Bowyer had been able to select a settled side on a regular basis – and in particular a settled midfield.
You’re not telling me Rovers would not have picked up more points if Ben Marshall, Corry Evans, Tom Cairney, Jason Lowe and Craig Conway had played together more often.
Of that quintet only Evans and Conway are fully fit going into this Saturday’s visit of runaway leaders Leicester to Ewood.
Defeat would leave Rovers needing to win six and draw one of their 10 remaining games to equal the points needed to finish sixth last season (68).
While not impossible it would be a tall order seeing as they are yet to string together more than two victories all season.
But even if Rovers do miss out on the play-offs Bowyer, through his largely excellent work in the transfer market, has formed the basis of a team that should be capable of making a proper push next season.
Throw the aforementioned Marshall, Evans, Cairney, Lowe and Conway alongside Paul Robinson, Grant Hanley, Matt Kilgallon, Tommy Spurr and Jordan Rhodes and you are looking at a strong starting XI for the future.
The right-back position still seems very much up for grabs as neither Adam Henley nor Todd Kane have done enough to nail it down.
That much was clear at Huddersfield on Saturday when Bowyer chose to play Lowe there.
But you all know what happened next? Lowe got injured.
Bowyer, to his credit, has never moaned about his lot when many other managers in his situation would have been quick to do so.
But privately he must rue Rovers’ misfortune.
As he will know, with his best players to pick from, his side may not remain what they have been since that opening day draw at Derby.
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