Rovers reporter Rich Sharpe picks out three talking points ahead of the trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday.


Darragh Lenihan missed out for the second game running as Rovers beat Sheffield Wednesday last weekend. Lenihan has been struggling with a hip injury, which Rovers are giving time to settle down after the 24-year-old played through the pain barrier, with the use a pain-killing injection.

Paul Downing was drafted in and looked much more aggressive than he had done in previous appearances and on that evidence, deserves to have overtaken Jack Rodwell for now in the pecking for Lenihan's deputy.

Rodwell himself was absent after still feeling the effects of a heavy challenge from James Vaughan in the defeat to Wigan three days earlier.

But Lenihan’s possible availability could raise questions over Downing’s place.

Rovers will need their back four to step up against a Middlesbrough side, who although short of goals at home, with 10 in 10 games, pose a real threat from set plays.

Only four players in the division have won more aerial battles than Lenihan (112), and whenever he has been fit, Mowbray has gone with him. But with question marks over his availability, Downing deserves another shot, should he not make it.  


Things had been going okay for Rovers on the road prior to the two defeats at the hands of Preston and Wigan. The seven goals shipped, as well as the four at Bristol City and three at Swansea City, mean they now have the second worst defensive record in the division with 19 goals conceded away from home.

But it is worth remembering they have managed three wins on their travels against Hull City (0-1) Stoke City (2-3) and Bolton (0-1).

So they have shown a resilience on the road, chalking up a 0-0 draw at Derby in September despite being under the cosh for the majority of the 90 minutes, as well as the point taken at West Brom where everything conspired against them. They must return to those levels.

The performances against Preston and Wigan were uncharacteristic of a side which have proven hard to beat throughout Mowbray’s time in charge.

Rovers were back to their usual selves at Ewood on Saturday, winning more tackles than any team in the league as they beat Sheffield Wednesday.

As Bradley Dack pointed out, they mustn’t dwell on those two defeats, having spoken about them at length last week, and respond with a performance capable of beating one of the fancied teams of the division.


Tony Mowbray makes his first return to Middlesbrought a manager since losing his job in October 2013 at the club where he made his name as a player with 425 appearances.

Affectionately known as ‘Mogga’ in his native north east, Mowbray has been back as a spectator, and fan, but never in the opposition dugout since losing his job.

He will undoubtedly receive a warm reception, believing he returns to a club with bigger aspirations of returning to the Premier League than when he was in charge.

Danny Graham and Richie Smallwood, two likely starters for Rovers, also began their careers on Teesside and still have close links to the club.

But the trio would like nothing more than a Rovers victory, preferably with a clean sheet, to get them back up and running away from home.