Rovers are waiting to see how long they will be without captain Darragh Lenihan after he missed the Nottingham Forest defeat with a rib injury.

His absence left Rovers without all four centre halves they started the season with, Lenihan joining Daniel Ayala, Derrick Williams and Scott Wharton on the sidelines. That meant an eighth different central defensive pairing this season as loanees Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Jarrad Branthwaite started alongside each other at the City Ground.

That followed on from the pair being alongside Lenihan in a back three in the defeat at Barnsley.

With Barry Douglas also only fit enough to be named among the substitutes it meant a whole new backline with Ryan Nyambe returning at right back and Amari’i Bell on the left.

Nyambe then joined the list of players on the sidelines when sustaining what appeared to be a serious hamstring injury in the closing stages.

Lenihan kept the armband at Oakwell, despite club captain Elliott Bennett being named in the side, while Armstrong led the side at Forest.

The Irishman’s form has been up and down this season, but he had been a consistent figure at the start of 2021, while at Barnsley, he was the pick of the Rovers players.

And his influence can be demonstrated by Rovers’ record without him in the side.

In the 22 games he’s missed since promotion from League One, Rovers have won three, drawn four and now lost 15. They have kept just two clean sheets in that time.

Defensive unavailability has been a factor over the course of the last three seasons and it shows no sign of relenting.

Williams has started all 10 Championship matches he’s been available for this season, while Ayala has also been fit for the same number, making eight starts, one substitute outing, and once being an unused sub.

Lenihan has started 27 of Rovers’ 30 Championship matches, with Nyambe available for 28 of the 30, but now faces a spell on the sidlines.

Rovers’ best results of the season have come when Lenihan and Wharton have been paired together, the homegrown defender’s season cruelly ended by an Achilles injury at Brentford, just as he was establishing himself in the team.

The injury forced Rovers into the transfer market in January, with Harwood-Bellis having now started successive matches, on the back of two substitute outings, while Branthwaite has played all seven matches since arriving on loan from Everton. 

It could well be all change again for Rovers when Watford arrive at Ewood Park on Wednesday, fitness depending.

Only eight times this season have Rovers been able to field an unchanged back four, while not once this season have they gone with the same back four, and goalkeeper, for more than two matches.

Unfortunately this is nothing new, and Rovers face the prospect of a season with so much promise being over with still more than a third of it to play.

The team has at times looked a shell of what you would come to expect.

Only six players have started at least 20 of the 30 Championship fixtures, yet Rovers built their strongest squad since relegation from the Premier League in a bid to cope with the likelihood of injuries in a condensed schedule.

Sometimes by design, other times enforced, but Rovers are yet to name an unchanged team. Rovers have undoubtedly suffered with injuries, and while it has likely played a part in being 10 points shy of the top six, even with a fully fit squad, it would be hard to envisage just what a ‘strongest XI’ is.