Rovers find themselves under unexpected pressure, at a time when they should be at their most relaxed.

They were within touching distance of the top six during a run of four consecutive victories in January. However, four points from the next 33 available has seen them drop to 16th in the table, with their cushion to the bottom three now eight points.

Boss Tony Mowbray had hoped to have been experimenting with formations and personnel as their season drifts towards its conclusion, and admits the run of form has taken him by surprise.

He is at a loss to explain why, but feels the momentum from last season’s League One promotion was likely behind their promising start.

“You don’t expect to win one in 11 from the run of games we’ve had,” Mowbray explained.

“I think while we’ve never ripped the league to bits with brilliant play, we’ve been competitive which is what we decided at the start of the season.

“In the Championship we knew we’d have to play at the intensity as we did in League One and see where it took us.

“That’s what we’ve done. They are very fine margins, and I’m not sure in my mind whether the intensity we managed to find and the momentum of the promotion, has it dropped off a small margin and that is the reason why we’re losing 1-0 instead of winning 1-0.

“Or the tight, tight games, I know that the effort is there and the drive is there, the stats are showing they are maintaining their levels, but the league is more challenging for us because of the quality of the opposition week in, week out.”

Rovers host Derby tonight, 10 days on from facing another play-off chasing side in Aston Villa.

The boss feels Villa’s display in the opening 45 minutes, and the reverse fixture with Derby in September, are among the toughest tests Rovers have faced.

The boss added: “As the Villa game showed, we played against Abraham, Grealish, McGinn, and I thought we acquitted ourselves really well.

“We had them on the ropes for the final 20 minutes but that’s difficult to do over 90 minutes and over 46 lots of 90 minutes it’s even more difficult to sustain it.

“I think when I look at the bigger picture I’m sure we’ll be very competitive in the next six games, pick up points, and finish the season where we finish.

“Then the aim for the club is to show ambition, improve as we go on, and going in to next season the team isn’t starting knowing we’re going to work really hard, but has the quality in the team throughout the team to give us the belief to win games.”

Rovers are expected to consolidate their position in the Championship following last season’s promotion.

On where they currently find themselves, he added: “If you would have asked me two months ago, it would have been ‘can you make the play-offs?’ when we were right on the cusp of it.

“We’re all frustrated and disappointed, yet you have to put it in to context that we came out of League One and all of these players played in that division.

“I think they have acquitted themselves fantastically well and even in the last few months when the fine margins have gone against us, I still think they have acquitted themselves well.

“I think the fine margins in this division have been cruel to us because I don’t feel as though there’s an imbalance in games when we’re hanging on for grim life. I think there are games we could, and should, have won, but definitely not lost those games.”