The power of the parachute payments is seeing the Championship’s top two build something of a gap, but Tony Mowbray believes it is an open field behind them.

Rovers are on the cusp of the play-offs at the 17-game stage, and were it not for the 7-0 humbling at the hands of Fulham then they would have headed into the international break inside the play-off spots.

Yet only four points separates them from 15th-placed Birmingham and with three more games to play before the end of November, the picture can easily change.

While victory for Rovers at Bristol City tomorrow afternoon could take them into the top six, defeat could see them slip into the bottom half.

That’s why Mowbray isn’t getting caught up in league standings, stating you can ‘throw a blanket’ over a host of sides pushing for the play-offs.

Mowbray says that while that isn’t an expectation, it will always be an aim, and the division feels more wide open that in previous seasons given the lack of points between the sides with over a third of the campaign gone.

The top six spots have felt like a closed shop at times since Rovers’ promotion from League One, but Mowbray feels things are a little different this time around.

“Undoubtedly, and we have to be included in that, we are included in that,” he explained.

“At this moment we’re near to the top pack of the 16. If you start at fourth, keep going right the way down.

“We’re seventh, but lose on Saturday and we could quite easily be 12th, or 13th, or 14th.

“Win on Saturday and we could jump into the top six.

“Let’s just keep going. It feels at the moment as though you have to see where you are when the season stops because at the moment you can win a couple and jump five or six places or you lose and you drop five or six places.

“It will be interesting to see whether that changes because 17 games in you would have expected a few more bigger gaps where you could see the top six or eight pulling away and there’s a gap of five points.

“That doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment.

“They’re tight matches, there are a lot of teams who can achieve something this season and they’ll all be trying hard.”

Rovers are now into their fourth season since promotion from League One, and as in 2018/19 when they finished 15th, they have 27 points at the 17-game stage.

They also finished 15th last season, with 11th their highest during Mowbray’s tenure, while eighth place in 2013/14 remains their best since dropping out of the Premier League, as does the 70 points they achieved that year.

With their current points per game Rovers would be on for 73 should they continue their form across the 46 Championship fixtures, but a downturn of fortunes in the second half of last season cost them dear, so avoiding a repeat will be key.

Rovers have so far drawn five of their 17 matches, with seven of the remaining 12 having been decided by one goal.

And Mowbray says the sides who can turn the fine margins in their favour on a consistent basis will be those who can put together a consistent challenge.

“There’s a lot of tight games in this league, you can throw a blanket over 15 or 16 teams and on any given day they can go either way,” he added.

“You have to try and come out on the right side of as many of them as you can.

“Those extra points are massive, as you see. We sit seventh in the league but two points here and there you can drop five, six, seven places.

“That’s why I use the phrase ‘throw a blanket’ over those teams.

“You win a couple of games you can jump 10 places.

“The top three teams are fighting for the automatic places, there are a few teams at the bottom who have found it really difficult, the rest over any given run can jump 10, 11, 12 places, it’s quite tight throughout the middle area of the league.”

Rovers are yet to beat any of the sides above them in the division so far this season and only collected 28 points out of a possible 28 against teams ahead of them in the standings in 2020/21.

That is an area of improvement for Mowbray’s men who were thrashed 7-0 by free-scoring Fulham at the start of the month, and beaten by another side relegated from the Premier League last season in West Bromwich Albion.

Mowbray added: “On any given season we could finish in the top six, I’m not saying that we will, we could, but any three of 16 could as well.

“If you think of Coventry and Huddersfield, are they better teams than us, are we better than them? Pretty similar.

“They’re up there at the moment, could we jump above them over the next week or two? Yes. Could we drop six or seven places? Yes, if we don’t win matches.

“It’s where the wheel stops when are you positioned? As the season unfolds it will depend on who picks up injuries, who finds an ability in tight games to come out on the right side of those and picks up points in quick succession.

“It might easily be us. It’s very much there this season for a number of teams to try and finish in the top six.”