Damien Johnson says the ‘carrot is there’ for the Rovers’ Academy players after Tony Mowbray hinted at first team opportunities before the season is out.

The likes of Tyler Magloire, John Buckley and Dan Butterworth have all trained with the first team of late and are firmly in Mowbray’s plans.

The manager was present for Monday’s 7-1 win over Leicester and could turn to some of the Under-23 side in the coming months.

“The challenge is there for them,” said Johnson, who has seen Lewis Travis and Joe Nuttall step up this season.

“Throughout my career I have never known a first team manager attend so many games. So he has a real awareness of the group and the qualities within it and knows them as well as I do.

“We know that he will give them opportunities, we know that from the couple of years he has been with us. The carrot is there for them.”

A number of Johnson’s squad left on loan last month, with Joe Grayson and Scott Wharton securing moves to League Two sides.

Travis and Nuttall had been expected to gain further experience in League One or League Two in the remaining months of the season, but have flourished on the first team scene of late.

While many players view moving out on loan as the best way to catch the manager’s eye, Johnson believes that is not always the case.

Last season Mowbray handed debuts to eight Under-23s players, while Travis and Nuttall have played 27 times between them this term.

“You don’t have to go out on loan,” Johnson said.

“A lot of young players are desperate feeling they have to go out loan. The lads who have progressed in my time have done it from this team, Trav, Joe Nuttall, Ryan Nyambe, they didn’t go out on loan.

“I’m not saying they don’t have to, but with the window closed for league loan moves, they have to keep performing in front of him (Mowbray) and if opportunities arise in training or to be involved then they have to be ready to take them.”

The Under-23s have won six of their last seven fixtures, scoring 23 times, to move out of the Premier League 2 relegation zone. Jack Vale scored twice against the Foxes, with Joe Rankin-Costello, Ben Paton, Stefan Mols, John Buckley and Charley Doyle also on target.