ROVERS head for home well placed, on the tailcoats of the leaders having made steady progress through the field.

Well backed, with Tony Mowbray at the reins, a previous winner over course and distance, those in front will certainly be aware of Rovers’ presence tucked in behind.

But there are plenty of hurdles still to jump, twists and turns lying in wait before any prizes are handed out.

At the midway point Rovers have done well to haul themselves in to a position in which to strike having allowed the leaders to build up a healthy lead following a stuttering start.

The majority of those at the business end of the table are familiar faces and among those most fancied before a ball was kicked. Wigan were champions at this level two seasons ago while Scunthorpe and Bradford missed out in the play-offs last term, with Shrewsbury certainly the surprise package.

Mowbray has stressed all along that Rovers would improve as the season went on, maintaining the faith despite a start which left his side languishing down the table.

They ended August in 10th, September and October in sixth before the real move in to the top six came during a perfect November in which they climbed to fourth.

Momentum has continued in December with Rovers hoping to crack the top two before too long.

A strong spine has been particularly key to their fortunes, with David Raya overcoming some early nerves to establish himself as one of the division’s most consistent stoppers. Charlie Mulgrew has demonstrated his qualities in both boxes while Richie Smallwood has added a steel and intensity to the midfield.

In attack, like Rovers’ season, Bradley Dack took a while to come to the party but his performances in the past two months have been a joy to behold. Keeping him fit and firing remains a must.

Though Rovers haven’t been without their injury troubles. Darragh Lenihan’s long-term injury diagnosis on the eve of the transfer window threatened to leave a massive hole in the heart of the defence. But exceeding everyone’s expectations, following a late deadline day move, Paul Downing has softened that particular blow and been a calm and assured figure.

Marcus Antonsson has equally been something of a surprise package, weighing in with eight goals.

Harry Chapman sparkled in his cameo outings before a devastating injury leaves his season’s hopes hanging by a thread. How disappointing we never got to fully see him and Dack in full flow together, their exchanges now reserved for social media.

Cause for optimism comes in their record against the top sides this season, with all of the current top six due at Ewood in the run-in, a place Rovers are starting to make a fortress. Their capabilities to strengthen in the January transfer window stands them in good stead, while sharing the goals around has eased fears over a lack of a runaway goalscorer.

However, they must retain their focus against the lesser likes in the table having dropped points against four of the bottom seven sides, while Gillingham also pushed them close at Ewood in October.

The top two have shown no signs of relenting but with a winning mentality having been developed over the course of the season Rovers head for home in fine fettle.

The race for the top two is on.