The talk, of late, at Rovers has been about not undoing the good work of the first two thirds of the season. Tony Mowbray suggested this current run shouldn’t overshadow that previous groundwork.

After a sixth defeat in seven, how grateful they are for that early haul of points as their problems mount. They finished the game without a recognised central defender on the pitch, and having accepted all responsibility the decision to loan out Paul Downing without sourcing a replacement, that is a situation in which the Rovers boss has played his part in.

Of that outfield players to start the game, as many as seven weren’t be used in their favoured position.

Mowbray opted for safety in numbers at the back, after their recent issues, going with a back three, with a holding midfield two of Corry Evans and Richie Smallwood. But just eight minutes in Lukas Nmecha proved too strong, and quick, for Derrick Williams before pulling the ball back where an untracked Daniel Johnson fired in to the roof of the net.

A third consecutive 1-0 home defeat, and fifth one goal defeat in seven games, leaves Rovers 11 points above the bottom three, and still seven short of the tally in which they managed in the whole of the 2016/17 season that saw them relegated.

In January, that looked within touching distance. Six games on, no-one would hold out much confidence of surpassing that.  Those points were the ones that looked to have kick-started a possible push at the top six. Now, they’re what’s keeping Rovers out of the bottom three.

Mowbray had used the 50 point barrier as a marker for when he may look to introduce some of the young players.  On current form, their opportunities may well be limited.

After Johnson’s early opener, Rovers were going to have to do something they haven’t done in 44 games in all competitions, and come from behind to win a game. What transpired was a sixth consecutive first half without a goal, and a second 45 minutes which brought with it plenty of huff and puff, but a distinct lack of quality in the final third to ever truly test Declan Rudd.

Indeed, the closest they came to an equaliser saw substitutes Joe Rothwell and Amari’i Bell combine before Preston midfielder Ryan Ledson was spared an own goal only be an acrobatic Rudd save at his near post.

The home fans saw no shortage of effort from their side, but frustration built as the final ball continued to let Rovers down. The mood wasn’t helped by referee Oliver Langford who adjudged Danny Graham’s coming together with defender Jordan Storey, when running on to a Richie Smallwood through ball, to have been a foul before the striker found the bottom corner.

Preston were happy to retreat and concede possession and territory and from Rovers’ 18 attempts at goal, only four were on target.

One of those in the first half, from one of the few half decent crosses delivered in to the box, Graham’s looping header was tipped behind by Rudd. From the resulting corner, an inswinging Mulgrew delivery almost found the far corner.

Elliott Bennett, without a goal this season, fired two efforts over, while moments before Johnson’s opener, Adam Armstrong flashed a shot wide of the far post from a Bradley Dack through ball.

Armstrong saw a header cleared by Darnell Fisher at the start of the second half before late on, the visiting keeper was grateful to collect Armstrong’s shot, fired down in to the ground from six yards.

Preston finished the day with 10 men, as Fisher was shown a second yellow card for pulling down Bell, but that only summed up the measures they went up to disrupt the game which worked in their favour.

As the games continue to tick by, Rovers’ points tally remains locked on 44 points. Any less, and they may well be looking over their shoulders.