Rovers reporter Rich Sharpe picks out four talking points from the defeat at Leeds United.


Tony Mowbray felt Rovers lacked the necessary guile and creativity to break through the EFL’s best  defence in the closing stages at Elland Road.

It was never going to be an easy task finding a way beyond a Leeds side who before Rovers’ visit had conceded just three times in front of their own fans.

But the way the game seemed to limp to the finish line suggested there was something of a missed opportunity for Mowbray’s men.

In a game of few clear-cut openings for either side, Rovers’ main threat came from set plays, but they couldn’t get the delivery right often enough to trouble the hosts.

All four goals against Leeds last season came from set plays, including two headers from corners in an October win at Ewood, and they highlighted that weakness in the hosts’ defence as Derrick Williams headed home his third of the season.

Downing’s assist for the goal was his third of the season, one of only two Rovers players to register more than one so far.

Topping that list with Downing on three is Elliott Bennett, the captain having played all but one game at right back.

They finished with John Buckley and Downing on the flanks, and the XI that ended the game lacked pace, and couldn’t find the right delivery in to Danny Graham to bring him in to the game.

While Rovers are still searching for a first-choice pairing in the middle of the pitch, so too are they out wide.

Lewis Holtby’s two previous starts had come from the right, scoring on his full debut against Huddersfield, but in a deeper central role against Leeds, he showed promise that he could have the creative knack to complement Lewis Travis’ all-action, tenacious style.

Mowbray spoke of Joe Rothwell needing to add more end product to his game, through goals and assists, to get a sustained run in the side, but the same could well go for all of Rovers’ wide options.

All three of Rothwell's starts this season have come away from home, and he certainly appears to tick the box of 'impact sub' rather than influential starter for now.

Adam Armstrong, so often a regular out wide, is a very streaky player, scoring three goals in four earlier this season having previously gone without a league goal since January, the month he was named the Championship’s best player.

Without Armstrong, Rovers do lack pace, but he must pick his moments better when to show to feet and when to run in behind.

Downing is the most natural wing option, but many of his better performances this season have come when used centrally, helping him chalk up 34 ‘key passes’ this season, second only to Reading’s John Swift.

Sam Gallagher has also been tried out wide, and like Armstrong doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities, getting through plenty of work.

But with a need for more goal threat throughout the team, it feels as though the wide players are the ones needing to chip in.

While the 'wide strikers' can be excused for not possessing the dazzling dribbling skills, or crossing ability, of a natural in that role, it’s the goal threat they need to contribute to.

How long before Joe Rankin-Costello, a player on the fringes of the first-team, gets his shot? The 20-year-old certainly knows how to sniff out a goal, as shown when adding to his collection with another for the Under-23s against Middlesbrough on Friday night in front of the watching Mowbray.

Sixteen games in, Rovers are still waiting for players to make positions their own.


Rovers have now conceded three penalties in their last five matches. And all came at crucial times.

Elliott Bennett was penalised for hauling down Adama Diakhaby just minutes in to Rovers’ first game back after the October international break against Huddersfield, from which Karlan Grant scored.

That looked harsh on Bennett, who also pulled down Alan Browne after Derrick Williams’ miscued clearance which allowed Preston to draw level in the derby at Deepdale last month.

And at Elland Road, it was Tosin Adarabioyo who was penalised for catching Luke Ayling, a decision Tony Mowbray felt was ‘soft at best’.

That gave Leeds a gift of an opportunity to take the lead at a time when Rovers were looking comfortable in the game.

Christian Walton saved Jarrod Bowen’s spot-kick in Rovers’ win at Hull in August, but was sent the wrong by Bamford’s cool penalty which ended his three month wait for a goal.

Mowbray criticised the officiating levels in the Championship, and he may well have a point given what we’ve seen. Whether it was the time to raise the issue however, is a separate debate in itself.


The Leeds’ defeat was Rovers’ fourth in a row away from home. They haven’t endured that kind of run in six years, and it’s been slim pickings on the road for the travelling fans.

Only Luton (17) have conceded more goals away from home than Rovers’ 16 in eight matches, with only clean sheet on the road, that coming back in August at Hull.

Even despite defending well, and limiting Leeds to shots from distance, they still conceded twice, the fifth time in eight games that has happened.

At the other end they managed just one shot on target, Derrick Williams’ goal, albeit against the side with the best defensive record in the EFL. 

While results at home have been frustrating, with Rovers’ unable to turn performances and dominance in to points, away from home they are yet to strike the right balance between defensive solidity and attacking threat.


Lewis Holtby made a third start for Rovers in a new-look role. He has largely been used in an advanced role on the right, but was trusted to play deeper at Elland Road, alongside Lewis Travis in another central midfield partnership.

Out of possession it was clear that Holtby was a voice on the pitch, ensuring that Rovers kept a good defensive shape and runners were tracked.

In possession, he showed his quality with two excellent passes, the first to free Sam Gallagher who, with a better first touch, would have been clean through, and the second freed Stewart Downing in the lead up to the corner from which Rovers scored.

He was replaced in the second half, and it yet to complete the full 90 minutes.

But with the eye for a pass, he could well be the creative spark Rovers have craved from that deeper role, complementing the tenacity and drive of Travis.