To Bradley Dack, or not to Dack? To let it rain on Lewis Travis, or not to let it rain on Travis?

It's a Blackburn Rovers conundrum that Tony Mowbray is having a difficult time of solving. On one hand there is the need to build the match fitness of your two key players, to have them on the pitch in some capacity to try and influence proceedings, but on the other hand if they are not ready, can you afford to provide them with starts at the expense of team performance?

Ultimately the inclusion of both came at a detriment to the sides overall performance on Saturday. And that is by no means a parting shot to either Dack or Travis; neither of them are anywhere near their peak condition. Patience is a virtue in these instances, especially when returning from serious knee ligament injuries, but the issue we have now is that so much expectation has been weighted on their presence, their passenger-like performances make Rovers increasingly inferior.

As Mowbray deployed Travis in a ball-winning capacity, the midfielder endured a bright opening 15 minutes until he was chasing shadows of the influx of Stoke City midfield runners. If he's not operating at his peak physical performance, then why opt for a player who could not perform is job properly when there was a perfectly adequate Jacob Davenport waiting in the wings?

It was an issue Mowbray quizzed about and the Rovers boss admitted it's a conundrum he is looking to solve. The side evidently made a short-term sacrifice to fit both Dack and Travis into the team but Mowbray is optimistic that there inclusion now will help them to get up to speed quicker and subsequently results will improve as their performance levels increase.

"It didn't look like we could score for 70 minutes and I think we needed more energy in the team," said Mowbray. "That's the balance I've spoke to you about with Dack and Travis coming back from long-term injuries.

"It's a call you have to make, whether you're going to get them fit by playing games or whether we just leave them out for 20 minutes or half an hour, rather than hour as such.

"That was evident, the team was off the normal intensity levels that we play at today. And yet we played against a decent side with some experienced players that played at a top, top level.

"Our spark this year has been our intensity levels, playing on the front foot and disrupting the opposition and not necessarily playing amazing, fluid football from the back but we've been nicking the ball behind and nicking it off their back foot, being full of energy.

"When you have two or three players that are not at the level then it's really difficult to maintain that."

The arrival of Lewis Holtby, Jacob Davenport and John Buckley helped to ignite a spark in an otherwise rotten performance and each member of the substituted trio sent a worthy message to Mowbray on the selection front.

While the Rovers boss conceded all three were unfortunate not to start, Mowbray believes it speaks volumes of the competition in the midfield department.

"The calculation I'm trying to get is can we still win football matches while trying to get some of our better players fit to play in the team? That's what we're trying to do," Mowbray added.

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"You can see what I'm saying, you either leave them out and focus on the next game or you give them some game time, hope that they come through, hope you win the football match at home and the benefits are huge for them if they play 60 or 70 minutes.

"Then they're closer and closer to reaching their maximum, playing their 90 minute games and helping us to win. I feel as though I'm criticising two players, Bradley Johnson has been playing centre-half for the last month or so but he was off the pace in the midfield today.

"I think the team struggled to get to what we expect. I could have made five changes at half-time but in hindsight it was easier to do them in stages."