IN-FORM midfielder Craig Hignett today warned of the dangers of sacrificing league survival for Cup glory as Rovers stand on the verge of their first major final appearance in 42 years.

Ewood's current man-of-the-moment knows more than most about the highs and lows of Cup success following a nightmare experience with Middlesbrough during the Nineties.

And he's desperate his Blackburn team-mates don't tread a similar path as they prepare for tonight's Worthington Cup semi-final second leg with Sheffield Wednesday at Ewood.

It was the spring of 1997 and Boro -- then managed by Bryan Robson -- had muscled their way into the finals of both the FA and Worthington Cups after two stunning runs in English football's premier knockout competitions.

But instead of finishing the season in a blaze of glory, the men from the Riverside suffered the ultimate heartache of losing both showpiece finals AND relegation.

"I remember getting to two Cup finals and still going down and we probably got relegated because of those Cup exploits," recalls Hignett.

"We ended up having to play about five or six games in 11 or 12 days at the end of the season and it was just too much for us -- we found we couldn't cope.

"For whatever reason, we just couldn't get it together in the league that season.

"We were brilliant in the one-off games and with the players we had at the time, we should never have been down there in the first place.

"But we were and I'd put most of that purely down to the amount of games we had to play in such a short time.

"We did have problems off the field as well in terms of spirit.

"But we still shouldn't have been down there at the death."

Certain parallels can be drawn between that scenario and the one currently unfolding at Ewood because, while Rovers chase cup glory on two fronts, they continue to struggle in the league.

However, Hignett believes the one key advantage his present employers have over his old Boro pals is a far greater strength in depth.

"We are lucky in that we've got a great squad here which can cope with the amount of games we'll have to play," said Hignett.

"But this is still one Hell of a month and there's a lot of games to cram in, especially with us being involved in this competition as well.

"The FA Cup is coming thick and fast and the league games are as well -- I don't think we've had a free midweek so far this month.

"Obviously, the Premier League has got to be our number one goal but if we can get to the final, then we are only one game away from Europe.

"We've still got to get there first, though.

"In the meantime, survival has to be the main thing.

"The revenue this club would lose if we finished up getting relegated would be devastating so our main aim has got to be to remain in the Premiership, and I believe we are good enough to do that."

That said, Hignett makes no secret of the fact an appearance in a major final is a magical experience.

During his Boro days, the club got to the Worthington Cup final twice and the FA Cup final once but still ended up losing all three.

However, a losers medal given to him by Paul Gascoigne from the club's 1998 Worthington defeat against Chelsea currently takes pride of place in his trophy cabinet.

Hignett had been a regular all that season as Boro looked to bounce back into the top-flight at the first time of asking.

But when he refused to sign a new deal towards the end of that campaign, Robson dropped him for the final and gave Gazza his place instead.

"Gazza had just come to the club and I hadn't signed a new deal," said Hignett.

"So Bryan Robson said I wasn't going to be involved in the final because he had to keep the people happy who were going to be at the club the following year.

"But Gazza was brilliant. He gave me his losers medal at the end of the game and signed it and all that.

"And that's now got pride of my place in the cabinet at home.

"But it was a bit gutting to lose out because that was one of the only games I missed that season."

Now Hignett is hoping to bury that disappointment once and for all by leading Rovers to Cardiff.

His goal in the first leg at Hillsborough means Graeme Souness's men take a crucial advantage into tonight's second leg.

But the 32-year-old Scouser knows from experience that Rovers cannot afford to take anything for granted, even if the hard work appears to have been done.

"I remember playing Stockport in the semis at Boro and we were 2-1 up after the first leg but then lost 1-0 in the second leg and only scraped through on away goals.

"So we can't afford to be too complacent."