Since Rovers have moved to a three-man defence they have conceded only one goal, kept seven clean sheets in eight matches and are yet to lose.

An easy correlation to make, you would think.

Rovers’ move to a three-man defence was contemplated and worked on in the summer, but not introduced until November, though Tony Mowbray isn’t making any such link between the system switch and the incredible turnaround in fortunes.

Mowbray has always stressed identity and patterns of play as being more important than formation, adopting a 4-3-3 system almost exclusively last season and 4-2-3-1 before that.

And that’s why he isn’t placing so much significance on the formation being key to the run that has taken Rovers into the top six.

“There’s no great tactical stuff, I wouldn’t sit here and say ‘oh yeah, we looked at this and thought this would be better,” he said.

“I’ve always said to you, I’m not really interested in formations and shapes, it’s more about how the team connect together, are compact in and out of possession, when do you press and don’t press, when you sit off in a deeper formation?

“As long as you defend and attack with 10 men I don’t think the formation really matters of how many you have strung across the back and how many you have pressing in midfield or how many up front.

“Footballers want to know their jobs, that’s why you have formations, but if you stop a game and have a snap-shot of a team in any game it might look a totally different formation because the players are being moved around.

“It’s about the players, not the formation.

“It’s easy to say ‘since you’ve changed the formation you’ve had a great run of results’.

“Yet I think the flexibility of this team is there as long as they stay compact, connected, work as hard as they do we can get results in any formation.”

Mowbray pointed to the availability of players as key to the formation change. Rovers tried it in October when Jan Paul van Hecke regained full fitness to play alongside Darragh Lenihan and Daniel Ayala.

However, it was the return of Scott Wharton which has proved most crucial, the left-footed defender able to bring some balance on that side of the backline with his ability to pick a pass key.

Joe Rothwell’s ability to carry the ball at pace through the heart of the pitch and John Buckley’s position behind two strikers are also unique and key to the formation that was first introduced for the win over Peterborough United in November.

Prior to Harry Pickering’s injury Rovers had named the same outfield players for six successive league games which aided Mowbray’s cause with a formation looked at in pre-season.

“We worked pretty hard on it in Scotland but the personnel dictates, who’s fit and who’s not, ” Mowbray explained.

“We had some time to do it in the (November) international break, we toyed with it in pre-season. We went away to Scotland and worked different systems and players.

“It’s down to who’s fit, who’s available. I don’t think I’d have sat there and thought ‘let’s put John Buckley behind two strikers’.

“I think the last time we did that was Norwich away last season and I thought John worked extremely hard and he has the aerobic capacity to start off how we want to play.

“It’s not necessarily how good he can be with the ball or what position he gets into, but the aerobic capacity he can help with pushing from the front.”

Daniel Ayala and Sam Gallagher are two players who would otherwise be regular starters unable to break into Mowbray’s current side.

Both came on to help see out the win at Cardiff City but have had to be patient for opportunities.

Mowbray only sees that as a positive, but new faces through the door in the January transfer window he says the system of play could change again.

He added: “It can easily change back. I sit here and look at it and think that Ayala isn’t a regular in this team because he got injured and we started playing with this and got results, but you can see how dominant he is when he comes onto the field and helps sees games out for us.

“You can say the same about Gallagher, hasn’t been fit, hasn’t played and yet does he get in our best starting XI? He probably should do.

“As a football manager you probably don’t have a starting XI because you have to like all of your players and at this moment two pretty dominant footballers are finding themselves out of a starting XI that’s won a lot of games.

“I only see that as a positive that we have brilliant back-up waiting to come on and influence a game.”