Rovers reporter Rich Sharpe picks out five talking points from the win over Bristol City



Among the various formation options thrown up by the 11 players selected to start by Tony Mowbray, the one he opted for was a 4-3-3, with Lewis Holtby operating a false No.9 position.

That is how they lined up at Liverpool, though it was a surprise to see the omission of Adam Armstrong, as despite not having had the same level of preparation as the other Rovers attackers, he had looked sharp behind the scenes, and proved that when introduced in the second half.

What the three man allowed Rovers to do was to get Stewart Downing in to the centre of the pitch, but not see him exposed as he was in the defeat against Derby County by having the willing runners of Lewis Travis and Corry Evans either side of him.

That was the same at the top end of the pitch, Rovers having running power in attack in the form of Brereton and Gallagher.

There was no let-up for Bristol City with the introduction of Armstrong and Samuel in those positions, Rovers looked much the fitter and stronger and ended the game on the hunt for more goals.

Maintaining fitness in the nine-game run-in will be tough, but there were plenty of promising signs for Rovers. And with a new-look shape for teams to contend with, it’s another string to their bow.



The font size on the Rovers team-sheet had to be reduced, that’s not a rule change, just necessary to fit the extra two names on, with matchday squads having increased from 18 to 20, and the number of substitutes permitted up to five from three.

They are able to utilised in three blocks, and Rovers opted to go for a triple change midway through the second half, replacing their starting front three, before Bradley Johnson replaced the injured Joe Rankin-Costello and Jacob Davenport on in the final throws after Corry Evans took a whack.

Having such options to introduce certainly freshened Rovers up, and their changes had much more of an effect than their opponents.

The drinks breaks, one midway through each half, can be disruptive to the rhythm of the game. Rovers were the better side in the opening quarter, but their levels dipped after the drinks break, with Bristol City taking the lead.

Adam Armstrong missed a good opportunity moments before the second half break, but roared back in to action quickly afterwards to put the game out of reach.

It’s nuances like that which manager’s must address.



Teams were warned that home advantage might not count for much, and so it proved.

Out of the 11 Championship matches played on Saturday, five were won by the visiting side. That would have been seven were it not late equalisers for Sheffield Wednesday and Luton, though Stoke did also grab a late equaliser to deny Reading a home win.

There were four draws, and the one home win? Well that honour went to Blackburn Rovers.

Rovers now have the sixth best home record in the division, winning nine, drawing eight, and losing just three of their Ewood matches. There have been frustrating draws in there, and disappointment in defeats to promoted-pair Luton and Charlton, but on the whole, Rovers have been hard to beat on home soil.

If they are to make the top six, they’ll need to find some wins on the road. And while their form hasn’t been bad, they have already matched last season’s tally of six away wins, they will need a few more, with Leeds and West Brom two of the three remaining opponents at Ewood.

If the pattern of success on the road for teams is to continue, then Rovers will hope to take advantage. It was good to be back at Ewood, and back to winning ways.



I’ve written about the Travis-Evans axis enough, they’ve now played together, and contributed, to 11 Rovers wins in 17 matches. But equally important is the one at the back.

Darragh Lenihan and Tosin Adarabioyo had partnered each in 18 of Rovers’ 20 matches before the Irishman was suspended for games with Swansea and Derby before the suspension.

The Bristol City win was the 20th time they’ve been paired together, Rovers conceding 20 times in those matches, and racked up an 11th win. Adarabioyo’s goal also saw him join his defensive partner on three matches.

The one blot was the yellow card for Lenihan, his 11th of the season. Rovers will certainly hope he avoids collecting another four before the season is out, with a three-game waiting if he does.

While Mowbray has the ability to be flexible at the top end of the pitch, he will hope to be able to select the quartet mentioned in the majority of Rovers’ remaining matches. They have a winning formula with them.



Rovers started the day in 10th, but finished it in seventh, and in doing so cut the gap to the play-offs to one point. It will be an ever-changing picture, but matchday 38 was a good one for Rovers.

The more teams that come in to the mix, the more intriguing it will be given the likelihood of them facing each other.

Rovers ticked off Bristol City, and still have Millwall and Cardiff City to play. Preston have Cardiff and Derby in their next two matches, Millwall and Swansea meet in their next but one fixture, so plenty can happen.

The positives for Rovers are the ability we know they have to string together a run of wins that will be required. They were always likely to need six wins from their final nine games. It’s now down to five from eight.

Indeed, 70 points may well be enough, but let’s not get carried away with ourselves. We’ve seen them pass up play-off opportunities in the past, and they’re yet to spend a week inside the top six this season.

But with eight games to go, they’re just four shy of the total achieved in the whole of last season, and have made undoubted progress.