THERE is no shame in losing to a superior side such as Norwich – but there is in having form as bad as Blackpool’s.

When Rovers snatched a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough on November 29 they made it nine matches unbeaten and strengthened their place in the play-offs.


But, barring a miracle, that will be the last time they will occupy a top-six spot this season.

As, since that dramatic afternoon at the Riverside, Rovers have taken just 13 points from a possible 42, a meagre haul matched by rock-bottom Blackpool and better only than Cardiff (12), Charlton (11), Millwall (11) and Wigan (8).

They are all teams looking nervously over their shoulder or doomed to the drop.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Rovers’ defeat to Norwich on Tuesday means they are now closer to the relegation places than they are to the play-offs.

It also means they are now two points worse off than they were at this stage last season.

Rovers did, of course, end that campaign strongly to finish just two points outside of the top six. 

The key difference, however, is that the gap to the team in sixth back then (six) was nowhere near as big as it is now (15).

Derby and Norwich were always going to be up there but whereas Middlesbrough, Ipswich, Bournemouth, Watford, Brentford and Wolves have progressed, Rovers have stagnated and, on current form, are in danger of regressing. 

It should not be forgotten what Gary Bowyer has done for the club.

In the space of 18 months he steered it away from relegation, stabilised it and raised expectations to the extent that supporters held genuine promotion hopes for this season.

But, ahead of what will be his 100th game in charge of Rovers, he finds himself coming under increasing fire. 

Since time began managers have carried the can for poor results and there is no question in the last three months Bowyer has been unable to get the best out of the promising young side he has built.

Are they good enough to go up automatically? No. But should they be nearer to the play-offs? Absolutely.

The players must also take responsibility. Too many have under-performed and, apart from Markus Olsson, who else has done it consistently all season? 

Forgot the top six, that is gone.

Instead Rovers must focus their efforts not only on their FA Cup clash at Liverpool, but on reversing a slide in the league that has left fans demoralised.

The reason why Rovers were booed off on Tuesday night was not because they had lost to Norwich.

Supporters can accept when their side has been beaten by a better team.

But what they cannot accept is a run of three wins and four draws from 14 matches.