Rich Sharpe looks at areas Rovers need to address on their return from the international break...



Sixteen games in to the season Rovers are yet to settle on preferred pairings at centre half and central midfield, while the striking role is also up for grabs.

In the full back areas, Rovers have also chopped and changed, not helped by the long-term injury to Greg Cunningham, or a lack of form from Amari’i Bell in plugging the gap at left back.

Darragh Lenihan is making good progress in his quest to be fit for the visit of Barnsley next weekend which would provide a welcome boost to Tony Mowbray.

Lenihan’s return may open up the possibility of going three at the back, though that would depend too on the fitness of Derrick Williams after he was withdrawn from the Republic of Ireland squad.

Three at the back could help with the fact that the wide players are yet to find a level of consistency, though it would likely reduce the amount of pace in the side.

However, it would allow both Lewis Holtby and Bradley Dack to play in the central area of the pitch where you feel they would best provide the creative spark that Rovers have at times lacked.

Rovers have deployed that system just once, the home game against Millwall in September, though given the absences of Lenihan and Adarabioyo at differing parts of the season, it’s a luxury Mowbray is yet to be afforded.

Only twice this season have Rovers had all three of their main central defenders, Lenihan, Adarabioyo and Williams, fit at the same time. The boss would have gone with at Reading in September were the Manchester City man not forced to pull out because of illness.  

The boss won’t get caught up in talk of formations and systems, believing philosophy is of greater concern. But finding the right balance to his side is something that will be in his thought pattern during this international break.



Rovers return from the international break with three home games in four. A trip to Stoke City on November 30 comes after back-to-back home games with Barnsley and Brentford and precedes a visit to Ewood from Derby County.

But getting a grip on the away form has to be to be high up on Mowbray’s priority list.

While the boss was keen to focus on how his side haven’t been blown away on the road this season (with four of the six defeats being by one goal) there is no getting away from the longer-term statistics.

From their last 17 away fixtures, Rovers have won four, drawn once and suffered 12 defeats. That is despite scoring 25 times, including twice on 10 occasions, and failing to score on just two occasions, both coming this season at Fulham and Birmingham.

It is clear where Rovers’ problems lie, with 38 goals conceded in those 17 away fixtures and the 1-0 win at Hull City in August being their sole clean sheet.

Finding a way to be defensively solid while still packing a punch going forward is a conundrum they are yet to overcome.

Having conceded 48 goals away from home, the most in the division, last season, Rovers are second only to Luton this campaign.

They haven’t suffered five successive defeats on the road since the closing months of their last Premier League campaign when they were beaten at Bolton (2-1), West Brom (3-0), Swansea (3-0), Tottenham (2-0) and Chelsea (2-1). They bid to avoid that at the bet365 Stadium on November 30.



One thing Rovers have been able to do during Mowbray’s tenure, for the most part, is dig out a result out at Ewood when they most needed it.

A 1-0 success over Derby in Mowbray’s first home match, three points against Aston Villa to keep their survival hopes alive in April 2017, a comeback win against Peterborough in April 2018 to make almost certain of promotion, midweek victories against Wigan in March and Derby in April during a torrid run of form and then then overcoming Middlesbrough in August to get this season up are just a few.

And then there were the scenes against Sheffield Wednesday, that roaring late comeback as Rovers stared a seventh game without a win in the face.

With bottom of the league due at Ewood next week, everyone is in need of a lift, and anything but a win would likely intensify the pressure on all concerned.