ROVERS are in a strong position but still have plenty of hard work ahead of them, starting with the visit of Scunthorpe United this afternoon.

That’s the verdict of defender Paul Downing who was part of a back four which kept a 10th clean sheet of the season against Rochdale on Boxing Day.

In-form Scunthorpe arrive at Ewood two points and one place behind Rovers and like Tony Mowbray’s side, looking to close the gap to the top two.

Wigan and Shrewsbury sit five and one point above Rovers respectively but Downing believes a strong festive period can change the landscape.

“It will be a big test,” the MK Dons loanee said of this afternoon’s game.

“They are an in-form team with some good players and the game at their place was a difficult match.

“They were up their last year and are a strong team so we will have to rest up and get ready for it.

“I think we’re in a strong position without having really done anything.

“We will see where we come out of this festive period and if we can get six points we will re-assess.

“We have closed the gap to Wigan and Shrewsbury and obviously Scunthorpe and Bradford will be chasing us. We will concentrate on ourselves and try and get the three points each week and if we do that we’ll make the top two I’m sure.”

Downing knows Rovers possess the quality to open teams up but admits it can be difficult at home given the approach of some teams. But after a string of high scoring games, Downing is pleased with a run of just one goal conceded in three games.

He added: “We went through a spell of scoring three or four, it’s going to be an up and down season and hopefully we can always be strong at the back.

“The guys in front of us are doing their jobs and if we can add to the tally of clean sheets, because if we do that we’ll win games.

“We’ve got the players to do that, but we have to be respectful of the other teams in the league.

“Teams raise their game here at Ewood and make it difficult for us there is a lot of quality in this division. As long as we’re winning, that’s the main thing.

“The stats have shown that scoring the first goal, teams often go on to win. We’ve shown we can come back if we lose the first goal but to get the first and follow it up with a second, it’s hard for teams to come back from that.”

Rovers’ six-game winning run was ended by Northampton Town on December 23 where they were held to a 1-1 draw.

However, they responded with a 2-0 win over Rochdale on Boxing Day and have taken 22 points from a possible 24 since November 18.

And the 26-year-old said: “We were all really disappointed after the draw at Northampton, we didn’t play as well as we could have.

“We don’t like to make excuses, we should have gone there and won, but we’ve bounced back and that’s the main thing.

“There are a lot of points to play for over the festive period so it was important to win today and we can look forward to the next games.”