REWIND 11 months and Blackburn Rovers were ready to make their way to Millwall for a must-win match on the back of a truly demoralising defeat at Watford that threatened to send them spiralling to a disastrous second successive relegation.
Fast forward to the present day and thanks to a quirk of the fixture list Rovers are once again getting set to enter the Lions’ Den just four days after a trip to Vicarage Road.
But as David Dunn is quick to point out there is a different type of pressure, a welcome pressure, on Gary Bowyer’s side ahead of tomorrow’s clash with basement boys Millwall.
In April last year Rovers headed to the home of the Lions in desperate need of a victory to ensure they survived the drop.
They ultimately got it – Jordan Rhodes and David Jones on target in a 2-1 win.
This weekend they go in search of three points to keep their slim hopes of a play-off place alive.
Dunn, who was outstanding in Tuesday’s 3-3 draw at Watford, admits Rovers will need to go on a ‘hell of a run’ in their final nine games of the campaign if they are to overcome the odds.
But he believes the fact that they are still in with a shout of snatching a top-six spot shows the progression they have made since their previous visit to Watford on April 20 last year, which ended in an ignominious 4-0 loss with Leon Best seeing red in injury time to cap a truly miserable afternoon.
Dunn said: “One thing I would say is 12 months ago we got turned over at Watford and it wasn’t great.
“But the progression that the club has shown and made over the last 12 months has been very pleasing.
“Now if we can keep making the progression we have shown this season I’m sure it will be very good for the club long term.
“I think the whole club has changed. The manager has done a terrific job, as have all the coaching staff, and I think we’ve got a good group of players here who are very hungry and want to learn.
“Certainly for an older lad when you’re watching them, they take things on board and you can see they’ve got a mentality to do their very best for the football club, which for the past few years, I don’t think has always been the case.”
Rudy Gestede’s injury-time equaliser against Watford in midweek left Rovers eight points behind sixth-placed Reading but with a game in hand, which comes on Tuesday when Brighton & Hove Albion are the visitors to Ewood Park.
Dunn added: “Anything is possible in this league but we know we’re going to have to go on a hell of a run to get there.”
The midfielder’s brilliantly taken 18-yard volley against Watford on Tuesday brought up his 50th league goal in 301 Premier League and Championship appearances for Rovers.
The veteran midfielder, 34, said: “It’s been a long-time coming but to reach that milestone as predominantly a midfielder for most of my career – which I probably still am – is very pleasing.”
But the shine was taken off the night for the former England international by the fact that Rovers were seemingly set to win the match until referee Darren Sheldrake awarded Watford a penalty after a cross into the box hit Todd Kane on the arm.
The Hornets converted the resulting spot-kick and went back in front before Gestede struck.
“We were well in with a shout of winning but I think the referee gave them a really soft penalty, Toddy was very unlucky to get penalised for that,” said Dunn, who showed sublime footwork to set up Rovers’ second goal of the night, scored by midfielder Craig Conway.
“It was something you kind of, not expect, but it happens quite often in this league.
“But I felt we once again showed great resilience to come back when we were 3-2 down with Rudy getting himself a good goal at the end.
“It would have been criminal if we hadn’t got something out of the game.
“We gifted them a few goals if we’re being honest but certainly there were more positives to take from the game than negatives,” Dunn added.