Selection, approach, and responding to setbacks: how can Rovers go about addressing their away form after three successive defeats, and no win in five?



It is upon us again, the Championship’s infamous three-game week, a fourth one of the season, with the trip to Derby County followed by home visits of Fulham and Sheffield United. One big effort before the November international break.

Rovers picked up five points from games with Luton Town (2-2), Hull City (2-0) and Barnsley (0-0) but then sustained defeats on the road at Huddersfield Town and Blackpool after the 5-1 win over Cardiff City.

The Reading win ended the most recent three-game run following defeat at QPR and home draw with Coventry City.

Rovers then return from the international break with a three-game week, with visits to Bristol City and Stoke City either side of welcoming Peterborough United to Ewood Park.

Only once since promotion have Rovers won three games in a run of Saturday-midweek-Saturday, that being the victories of Barnsley, Brentford and Stoke City in November 2019.



In the last three game week it was the middle fixture, the 1-0 defeat at QPR, where Tony Mowbray made changes. What it created was an imbalance in the side, Rovers struggling to create and succumbed to a 1-0 defeat late on.

Mowbray was justified however by the fact that the quartet of players left out in that midweek game (Rothwell, Buckley, Dolan and Gallagher) all came back refreshed to impress in the win over Reading, the latter two scoring.

Rovers named what many would agree was their strongest available XI against Reading, and if Mowbray could name something similar for the remainder of the season, then they would stand a good chance of pushing for their highest finish since relegation from the Premier League.

However, particularly at the intensity the manager is wanting his side to play at, and as shown by the muscle injuries picked up by Ryan Nyambe, Harry Pickering and Sam Gallagher already this season, the schedule, including the three game week, doesn’t allow for that.

This is where Rovers must utilise their squad, but at the same time require more from those on the fringes of the first-team to come and ensure that any absences through rotation aren’t felt as strongly.

The mostly likely approach would be for the changes to come against Fulham next midweek, particularly with only three days between their visit and that of Sheffield United next week.

Should Nyambe be able to feature, the one expected change at Derby would be Jan Paul van Hecke replacing Daniel Ayala who is struggling with a calf problem, the same injury which is set to keep Pickering out.



To claim a first win on their travels in two months, Rovers would have to inflict a first home defeat of the season on a Derby County side who are making a reputation for being one of the division’s most stubborn.

Bottom of the league due to a points deduction only, they remain one of only three sides yet to be beaten on their home patch and have the joint second-best defensive record. They have tasted defeat just twice in their previous 10 matches and kept an impressive seven clean sheets so far.

On the flip side, they have struggled for goals, only the two sides above them, Barnsley and Hull City, have scored fewer than the Rams’ 10. They have injuries in attack, with Sam Baldock still sidelined by injury, and former Rover Colin Kazim-Richards not yet ready to start after his lay-off, leaving another ex-Ewood man, Tom Lawrence, as their main attacking threat.



A slow start cost Rovers at Blackpool, injuries and poor defending were attributable to the defeat at Huddersfield before that, while at QPR, they were too passive in their approach, and similar to the goalless draw at Barnsley, struggled to put anything of attacking note together.

A front three of Dolan-Brereton-Gallagher appears likely again, but in what order remains to be seen, with Mowbray suggesting he will be flexible with his options.

Against Reading they used the running power of Sam Gallagher through the middle, and Scott Dann struggled to live with him at times, and that could well offer food for thought going in to face a Derby side marshalled by Phil Jagielka (39) and Curtis Davies (36) who have a combined age some eight years older than the Rovers front two.

Dolan will have fond memories of terrorising left back Lee Buchanan in this fixture last season, when Rovers won 4-0, and while Derby have undoubtedly shown strong defensive resolve, Mowbray will likely think that movement in attack could well prove crucial.

  • Rovers' percentage of possession in victories: Swansea City 29, Nottingham Forest 40, Hull City 45, Cardiff City 39, Reading 39.
  • Percentage of possession in defeats: West Brom 52, Huddersfield Town 50, Blackpool 51, QPR 31.

The stats above show the anomaly of QPR in that it was the first time Rovers had lost when having less than 50 per cent of the ball. They face a Derby side who are 17th in those standings, so not a side who have generally dominated the ball so far, which will offer an intriguing dynamic.

However, with Rothwell and Buckley in midfield, Rovers do possess players capable of dictating the play, and as the season goes on that has to be a cycle they look to break.



Away from tactics and approach, Rovers must show more steel and resilience. They struggled to handle the pressure when losing two-goal leads to Luton Town and Coventry City when both of those sides, backed by strong away followings, piled on the pressure.

QPR lifted their game in the final half an hour as their home crowd got behind them, while under the microscope of derby day at Blackpool, Rovers turned in their poorest half of football to date as they went in 2-0 behind.

That came after defeat at Huddersfield where they twice worked their way back into the game, only for moments of naivety to creep in as they lost the game late on.

Ilias Chair wasn’t suitably closed down to score the winner for QPR seven minutes from time, while it was an 84th minute goal that cost Rovers at Huddersfield.

These are all moments in games where they need to show greater focus and concentration.

The win over Derby in April at Ewood was the last time Rovers won when conceding first, one of only two occasions since the start of last season. The last time they conceded first and went on to win away was the 3-2 success at Cardiff in July 2020.

Responding to setbacks is something we need to see more of from this team.