Rovers’ defeat to Blackpool in the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup last season is the perfect illustration of the challenge posed by tonight’s third round opponents Gillingham.

Mike Sheron, assistant manager of the Under-18s, says the Gills, who like Blackpool are a category three academy, are worthy of Rovers’ respect ahead of the Ewood Park meeting (7pm).

Sheron says the Rovers youngsters have to earn the right to continue their progression in the competition which started in round one last year because of the first team’s League One status.

“They are a category three club and the big banana skin we have to overcome is that Blackpool were and they beat us in the quarter-finals last year,” he said.

“So there are no givens, and that is the case with football in general.

“We have to go out there and earn the right to win the football match and that’s the opportunity our lads have.”

Rovers are eighth in their 12 team league and have enjoyed a more settled side in their league programme this year.

Boss Billy Barr will name around five second years in his starting line-up tonight, including Jack Vale, who netted a hat-trick in the last 16 win over Nottingham Forest.

Sheron added: “Last year our Saturday programme was pretty frustrating because a lot of the lads were playing up with the Under-23s.

“We didn’t have that consistency of form or players playing together. We feel we have had that more this year so hope we are more in tune as a team.”

And he’s excited to see how the youngsters react to playing on the big stage.

“Last year in the games at Ewood Park I thought the lads did really well and there were some proud nights for everyone in the Academy to see how they did perform under pressure and we’re hoping for those opportunities again this year,” Sheron said.

“It’s about reacting to the different challenges. We have a good idea who will succeed but sometimes someone comes from afar.

“An opportunity to play at Ewood Park in the FA Youth Cup is something that dreams are made of, but it’s a case of being another stage on that ladder to progress up the pathway.

“This is about learning who can deal and cope with the pressure, who enjoys pressure.”