Tony Mowbray feels the leadership of Darragh Lenihan was just as big a miss as his defensive qualities during his five-game absence through injury.

Lenihan’s return has coincided with Rovers picking up nine points in three matches, including a first clean sheet in 11 matches and away victory in two months.

They collected just four points from the five matches in which he missed with a knee injury sustained in the defeat at October 4, with Mowbray able to field what he would likely have imagined as his first-choice pairing in the last three matches of Lenihan and Manchester City loanee Tosin Adarabioyo.

The boss knows plenty of hard work lies ahead, but having questioned the leadership within his group during a run of one win in eight matches, has been pleased to welcome the 25-year-old back in to the fold.

He said: “It’s easy for me to stand here and say that we lost all of those games because Lenihan wasn’t fit but I would say the personality of the footballers is what matters.

“When you have leaders on the pitch, guys who’ve got it in their belly, they don’t want shots going towards our goal never mind goals going in, you see it every day and you need those.

“On days like that, it goes 1-1 and the crowd are roaring, you need big characters and personalities and we’re getting them back and it’s helping the team.”

Mowbray felt Lenihan and Adarabioyo were ‘immense’ at repelling the aerial bombardment Rovers faced at Stoke City, something they had struggled with in the second half of the defeat at Preston.

The Lenihan and Derrick Williams, that impressed at the back end of the 2018/19 campaign, had shown promise earlier in the season, with Rovers keeping four clean sheets in matches.

Twenty-two-year-old Adarabioyo endured a tough start to his Rovers career with injuries, but has now started eight consecutive matches at the heart of the defence.

“Let’s hope so. Lenihan and Williams kept four clean sheets in six but Adarabioyo, you can see he’s a quality, class player,” Mowbray said of his current partnership.

“Whether he ever moves to the level where he would hope to, let’s wait and see.

“We’re just giving everyone an opportunity to show his talents, how composed and good on the ball he is. But also how he can make first contact with crosses and defend.

“He’s got spider legs, reminds me a bit of Gary Pallister 30 years ago, they come from nowhere just to nick the ball away from attackers.”