Nick Powell’s goal for Stoke City was the second header he’s scored against Rovers this season, and the fifth time they have conceded from a set play.

That is contrast to their fortunes at the other end, with just one headed goal all season, and three goals from set plays, although some of those could be considered tenuous.

Indeed, it took trawling back through every goal of this season to work out which were the three set piece goals the statisticians were referring to.

The one headed goal was Adam Armstrong’s second in the home defeat to Reading in October, getting infront of his marker to glance a terrific Joe Rankin-Costello cross into the corner.

Three set piece goals are Derrick Williams’ tap-in in the 5-0 demolition of Wycombe in September, Ben Brereton’s neat hooked volleyed in the win over QPR in November, and last month’s last-gasp winner from Armstrong against Rotherham United.

Williams’ goal saw a short corner from Lewis Holtby to Tyrhys Dolan teed up for Joe Rothwell, his deflected shot saved by the goalkeeper and turned in by the central defender.

Brereton’s was much-more planned, a short corner from Harvey Elliott to John Buckley, his delivery headed back across goal by Darragh Lenihan and into the net via a volley from the attacker.

The most recent, saw Stewart Downing’s cross cleared, played back to him by Elliott, before his follow-up cross was deflected into the path of Armstrong who swept home.

And there we have it, three set piece goals, the fewest in the division, with only QPR registering the same amount.

It is a real drop off from last season where Rovers managed 18 goals from set pieces, and 16 in 2018/19, and even the 11 they managed in the 2016/17 campaign in which they were relegated.

A lack of headed goals isn’t unfamiliar, with just six in each of the last two seasons, with their one scored this season unsurprisingly the fewest in the division.

However, they rate well on aerial duels, winning 53.6 per cent, the fourth best t in the division, 471 from their 879 challenges, though that is the third lowest in the division.

It’s not like Rovers haven’t been without the chance to score from set plays, with 115 corners so far.

The last time they scored with a header directly from a corner was Williams against Leeds United in November 2019, some 54 games ago. In the reverse fixture at Ewood Park in October 2018, both Danny Graham and Lenihan scored with headers direct from corners.

Tosin Adarabioyo also netted with a volley from a Downing free kick at Charlton in February 2020, with Lenihan doing similar from a Downing corner at Sheffield Wednesday a month earlier.

However, Rovers’ expected goals from set plays last season was 2.54, well below the league average of 3.46.

Before we get into the reasoning, it must be said that some very good saves have denied Rovers this season, Lenihan at Watford, Scott Wharton against QPR, and Sam Gallagher against Norwich to name just a few.

So why has Rovers’ output from set plays been poor?

Well, they have struggled for a regular set piece taker, largely since the departure of Charlie Mulgrew whose pinpoint left foot was a real weapon.

Indeed, since he fell out of favour, Rovers have also managed just one goal direct from a free kick, Armstrong’s effort against Leeds United in July.

Downing, Lewis Holtby, Rothwell, Elliott, Bradley Dack and Barry Douglas have all had a go, though Rovers have largely had a preference of taking corners short, with the delivery otherwise largely frustrating.

They too aren’t the tallest side in the division, something which looked quite telling against Stoke City at the weekend, as outside central defenders Lenihan and Jarrad Branthwaite they relied on Bradley Johnson in the first half and Sam Gallagher in the second to help out defensively.

Indeed, Rovers ended up in a situation in the first half that Ryan Nyambe was the man marking Powell as he headed home a Jordan Thompson delivery.

We also saw Thomas Kaminski, likely acting on instruction, coming a long away off his line to try and help his defence out by punching clear set piece deliveries.

With a forward line at the weekend of Armstrong, Dack, Rothwell and Elliott, as well as Travis in midfield, it is something that Mowbray has suggested does come into his thinking when deciding upon an XI.

He said after the Rotherham United win: “I was talking to the team about a physical balance, just how much physicality do you put in your team to match their physicality? So their long-balls, corners and deep free-kicks, how many footballers do you put in the team and how many physical players do you put in the team to match it?”

Williams is under-rated in his ability to attack set pieces, and should have scored more goals over the course of his Rovers career than he has, though is currently out injured.

Rovers remain the division’s top scorers with 39 goals scored, however, those have dried up slightly of late, and in games that continue to be tight, on pitches that are showing signs of wear, any possible advantages need to be taken.

And set plays are one of those.

Tony Mowbray delegates those to his coaching staff, and we have seen some well-worked routines in the past, not least the opening goal at Bristol City in December 2019 where, just two minutes in, Johnson ghosted in to hammer home Holtby’s low corner.

And that level of imagination would be particularly welcomed to help overcome what has become something of a missed opportunity.