If Rovers are to make the Championship play-offs, they will have been determined to do it the hard way.

The size of that ‘if’ has fluctuated with recent regularity, as a team who spent so long without a draw have now had three in a row at a time when their WLWLWL sequence from the early season would be preferred.

With now 42 of 46 Championship games played, still Rovers find themselves in the Championship play-off spots.

They have been there after every completed round of matches since October.

Jon Dahl Tomasson has rightly stressed this is a position that everyone would have taken at the start of what most would have expected to be a transition season. It is quite the statistic.

However, there are some caveats that come with that.

The biggest is that it looks set to be potentially the lowest points tally needed to finish in the play-offs since 2014/15 when Reading did so with 71. The team to miss out on that occasion with 70 were infact Rovers, that tally remaining their highest in the second tier since relegation from the Premier League.

Also, many of the teams they are competing with: Millwall, Coventry City and Sunderland are those that you would expect at the very least Rovers to be challenging with, and playing off relatively equal playing fields.

Just a handful more points would have had them sitting pretty. Instead, they are now scrapping for every point.

The goals and wins have dried up as it now looks increasingly like a potential final day shoot-out at Millwall.

Rovers’ last win was against Reading on March 15, with their five games since the international break bringing five points, and only three goals.

Of the top 18 sides in the division, only Saturday’s opponents Preston North End have scored fewer than Rovers’ 46, while only one of their wins in 2023 has been by more than one goal.

And therein lies a real concern.

Rovers’ struggles when conceding first have been well documented, with only two points picked up when falling behind.

Yet in their last 25 league matches, they have scored more than once on only four occasions. In that time, they have won only twice by a margin of more than one.

You have to go back to October 18, a 2-0 win over Sunderland, to find the last time they won at Ewood by a greater margin than one goal.

That is seriously limiting their ability to win matches to such an extent that it feels they must score first, and then keep a clean sheet, to win.

They did the first part of that when Sam Gallagher finished off an excellent team move to hand them the lead in the 39th minute, a fine stooping header from a Joe Rankin-Costello after Rovers worked their way up the pitch with real precision.

Gallagher’s ninth minute header, straight at Ben Wilson from a Ryan Hedges delivery, would prove to be one of only two attempts on target as they failed to seize the initiative of the half time scoreline.

As the half wore on and Rovers increasingly tired, tension mounted around Ewood Park, and the quality dipped. It became a scrap.

To their credit, aside from a sluggish start that saw Gustavo Hamer have two good opportunities from the edge of box, they had largely defended well after the break.

The concern was the amount they were having to do, and the lack of out-ball which made a 1-0 scoreline the only margin of victory that looked possible.

Rovers’ early season wins relied on that ability to see games out, but it failed them on this occasion as Coventry rode their luck to bundle the ball home in the 95th minute.

It was a goal celebrated wildly in the away end, but also in living rooms of fans of Millwall, Norwich City, Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion as Rovers once again gave hope to the chasing pack.

Tomasson came in for criticism for his substitutions, and while his in-game management is one area that can fairly come under the microscope, the options available to him were limited.

Already without regular left back Harry Pickering, Callum Brittain tired on his first start in two months, while Joe Rankin-Costello on the opposite flank was out on his feet even before his 84th minute substitution.

It left Rovers with two wingers, Sorba Thomas and Ryan Hedges, as wing-backs, while Gallagher was forced off injured and Adam Wharton, who tired after an excellent first half, also needing to be replaced.

The outfield substitutes that Tomasson didn’t use were Ash Phillips and Bradley Dack, who himself had a question mark over his fitness.

Given Coventry's threat was always expected to come from set plays, the added height of Scott Wharton will have been welcomed. 

Tomasson therefore defended the changes, but did stress the instruction wasn’t to sit back in the way Rovers did, and that there could still be pressure applied on the ball in the formation they were set up in.

What is of bigger concern now the game is out of the way is how Rovers summon up the energy for a vital run-in when many look out on their feet.

This cruel and beautiful game is unrelenting and the tension could well prove unbearable as it goes on. Trying to see out one-goal victories will only add to that.

There is no questioning the workrate, Rovers were out on their feet by the end, but it is only with such effort that they can sustain a top six push.

So they move from one 'biggest game of the season to another' and the next two matches, over the space of four days will be both mood, and season, shaping.

Mark Robins felt Coventry earned the luck with their equalising goal. Rovers must be hoping theirs will turn soon.