Robert Folker looks ahead to this weekend’s FA Cup tie as Rovers look to make the fourth round of the tournament for the first time under Tony Mowbray…
The FA Cup weekend has come upon us, a result where a loss is not so devastating but a win not so important.
If this was a league game, I’m sure many wouldn’t expect Bradley Dack to start, but his place in the starting XI is almost anticipated due to the nature of the cup.
After a strong start, Rovers have found themselves not being clinical enough, meaning results haven’t followed their dominant displays.
Bradley Dack could be the answer to that problem as the midfielder provides that knack for scoring important goals, and the return of Lewis Travis will also be an important one and could be overlooked by Dack’s reemergence.
Rovers’ tempo has seemingly slowly petered out in recent weeks and Travis is a driving force in the engine room that the side crucially needs.
You rarely see a manager coming out with the line the ‘FA Cup isn’t important’, but Tony Mowbray would trade an exit from the cup to see Dack and Travis come through unscathed.
The return of Dack and Travis is the equivalent to two multi-million pound signing this January and the two need to be as involved as possible in an important run of fixtures.
This is why this game must be used to give these two minutes to have them both ready for the arrival of Stoke at Ewood Park on January 16.
Another player that Rovers could do with finding form again is Lewis Holtby, a player who – when performing well – controls the rhythm of the entire game.
The German was struggling even before the Dack reemergence and since hasn’t produced a notable display.
The two always looked shoehorned into a rigid formation last season, but now Rovers have a more fluid, attacking style, it may allow both playmakers to influence games with both on the pitch.
An injection of youth could be also been seen with defensive options limited Mowbray may use this game as a chance to integrate some younger members.
Daniel Pike is the main contender and he has gained plaudits for his U23 performances this season and there have been occasional calls for him to be thrown in the deep with the full-back issues the club faces.
Mowbray has opted for experience when this problem is encountered and the decision has ultimately paid off with Barry Douglas impressing at right-back against Birmingham
Pike, however, did make the senior squad for the first time in that game and will hope to do better one week later.
The result will only matter if Rovers fall to an embarrassing defeat of multiple goals and this would truly cause more questions to be asked of the manager.
A win won’t stop the murmurs but a revived Bradley Dack and Lewis Travis could provide the ammunition for Rovers to go on and have an impressive January.
Rovers need to start hunting down the play-off spots and show a ruthlessness to their play that we are yet to really see.
The season will ultimately be judged on the league table and not an FA Cup run so making sure the squad is in the healthiest position possible come the next league game will be Mowbray’s top priority.
Rovers are in need of relighting their season after their explosive start and when we look back on the campaign this could be the game that does so.
Thanks for reading.