DAMIEN Johnson was full of praise for his young side as a much changed Rovers Under-23s side recorded an impressive 4-0 victory over Fulham at Leyland.

Johnson was without four of his regular starting XI through injury and suspension, but saw a number of the Under-18s step up and contribute in a fine team performance.

One of those, Callum Wright, scored a stunning solo goal to put Rovers ahead after 11 minutes, before Joe Nuttall doubled the lead just after the half hour.

Joe Rankin-Costello scored his sixth of the season 12 minutes in to the second half, finishing off a fine move, before substitute Lewis Mansell nodded in a fourth midway through the second half.

Rankin-Costello missed a late penalty, but that didn’t detract from another fine performance which gave Johnson’s side a fourth win in six league games.

“We talked about playing at a good intensity,” Johnson said.

“We knew they were a good footballing side if we let them play, so we went about unsettling them and playing on the front foot and look to counter on them when we had the opportunities.

“Full credit to the young lads who came in, we were as young as we’ve been, and they all stepped up.

“Callum scored a great goal, Ben Paton is not a left-back but stepped in and adapted for us and looked like he was a regular there.

“Young John Buckley was terrific in the middle of the park and it was great to give 16-year-old Jack Vale an opportunity.

“But that’s what it’s all about, we have to keep pushing the young lads on.

“The senior lads at this level, they have set their standards and that’s what we want from them each week.

“They know the demands and what’s expected and we’re delighted with the goals, but equally pleased with the clean sheet.”

Nuttall was forced to come off in the aftermath of his goal having received treatment to a head injury caused in a heavy collision with Fulham goalkeeper Magnus Norman.

The Rovers striker lobbed the ball over the advancing goalkeeper, when he looked second favourite to get to the ball, and found the corner with his effort.

And asked about Nuttall, who scored for the ninth time already this season, Johnson said: “He’s fine, but obviously with a head injury the doctor suspected maybe a bit of concussion so didn’t want to take any chances.

“Joe put his head in where it hurt and credit to him, he got his goal.

“I think by the time he came off he knew he’d scored.

“The goal itself summed the group up, they are prepared to put their head in where it hurts and he didn’t flinch when a big goalkeeper steamed out at him.

“It was terrific bravery and it was a terrific goal for him.”

Rovers have been among the goals this season, moving to 17 in six league games.  But this was their second clean sheet, a second of the season, which impressed Johnson.

Rovers were without the suspended Joe Grayson and Lewis Hardcastle, while Willem Tomlinson and Jack Doyle missed out through injury.

And the boss, who has switched to a 4-2-3-1 from a 3-4-3 system in recent weeks, said: “The last two games we’ve played a back four.

“For the first four games we had a back three, but we switched because of injuries and suspensions and I think it’s important that we showed our adaptability.

“The lads can adjust and flip between systems and they did that well.

“They had players who can hurt you and we had to defend, and when called upon, I thought we did well and got a clean sheet so I’m really pleased.”