With a third of the season gone Rich Sharpe analyses what’s gone right and wrong for Rovers so far.

POINTS TO PROVE

WITH arguably the strongest squad in the division, some Rovers players are yet to hit the heights of what would be expected.

Tony Mowbray has challenged Ben Gladwin ‘to come to the party’ to soften the blow of Harry Chapman’s expected three months absence, with the former QPR man having made just five league outings, all as a substitute.

Derrick Williams has himself admitted that he hasn’t reached the standards which saw him crowned player of the year in his debut year at Ewood Park, while Peter Whittingham is only just starting to find his feet after a difficult start.

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Danny Graham, in and out of the side for much of the season, will be keen to nail down the central striking role as he aims to build on the three goals he has scored this season, while Dominic Samuel and Marcus Antonsson will also have a similar aims as they look to prolong Joe Nuttall’s wait for a starting spot with scoring runs of their own.

DACK IN THE BOX

BRADLEY Dack’s nomination for League One player of the month for October was well deserved having become a key man for Rovers.

All three of his goals last month, which took his tally to four for the season, came from inside the area and his ability to arrive in the box undeterred saw him go close on three separate occasions in the 0-0 draw at Wigan.

He is starting to become a talismanic figure for Rovers, the man they look to in the hour of need, something many expected given his price-tag and previous exploits at this level, but with Chapman now sidelined, a reliance on the attacker is only likely to increase.

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A partnership with Graham has shown signs of life, while his close friendship with Samuel off the pitch could bear fruit on it should they be paired together.

Having overcome two early hamstring injuries, a fully-fit and firing Dack will be key to Rovers’ promotion chances.

STOP START SEASON

ROVERS are the only side in the division to have all scheduled games which have fallen on international breaks called off. The first two were of their making, the latest at Walsall’s request.

That has left a heavy reliance on games in hand given the gaps the sides above them have built up.

No matter the results this weekend, Rovers will be 11 points off the automatic places.

Mowbray's are yet to live up to their pre-season billing as promotion favourites, their longest unbeaten run standing at four games, though they have avoided any winless runs stretching beyond two games, something that will be put to the test at Bury next weekend.

However, a run of two wins in eight in all competitions could see them slip as low as 11th should results go against them.

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With Rovers moving in to a busy period, with 27 points up for grabs before the end of 2017, there is an opportunity for a healthier outlook going in to 2018.

With no Checkatrade Trophy distractions, and promotion the clear aim, Rovers must put all their focus in to ending the year on a high to back up Mowbray’s theory that this side will get stronger as the season goes on.

CONTRASTING FORTUNES

UNBEATEN in six games against teams in the top eight but three defeats to teams in the bottom third of the table speaks for itself.

Defensive resilience was key to wins at Bradford and Scunthorpe, while the first-half showing against Rotherham at Ewood was among the best Mowbray’s men have produced.

And while they weren’t at their best against the top two sides away from home, Shrewsbury and Wigan, they battled hard to take draws back to East Lancashire.

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Four of their seven clean sheets have come against top seven sides, though some of that can be put down to their approach in those matches. 

Five goals scored in the last two home games has helped allay some fears of a lack of clinical edge at Ewood, while just seven conceded and the same number of clean sheets in 13 games indicate a defensive improvement as the season has unfolded.

SELECTION SHAKE-UP

IN 15 league games and six cup ties, Rovers are yet to name an unchanged team.

A lack of consistency on the pitch, unavailability to key players and Mowbray’s studying of the opposition has meant that changes to the starting XI are a weekly occurrence.

David Raya, Derrick Williams and Richie Smallwood have been ever presents in the league with Charlie Mulgrew and Elliott Bennett missing just one game each.

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Injuries to senior players Darragh Lenihan, Craig Conway and Bradley Dack haven’t helped but it is in the forward areas in which Mowbray has shuffled his personnel in search of a regular winning formula.

Yet spots at right-back, central midfield, out wide as well as up front are certainly up for grabs and now would be a good time for someone to put their name forward to fill the vacancies for each to bring about that much desired consistency in results and performances.