Billy Barr branded his side’s first half display as ‘terrible’ and called for much more from his Rovers Under-23s side despite seeing them maintain a 100 per cent start to their Premier League Cup campaign.

Rovers scored three times in the final 14 minutes to claim what had looked an unlikely victory having been second best for most of the night against Middlesbrough at Leyland.

Barr included Ben Brereton and Dominic Samuel in his side on their return from injury, with the pair both coming through an hour, with Harry Chapman substituted shortly afterwards after picking up a knock.

Rovers trailed for well over an hour to Joseph Gibson’s early strike, with Barr admitting his side could have been 4-0 down inside the opening six minutes, such was their poor start.

“First half, terrible, all round, a lack of bravery to get on the ball and lack of options when people did decide to get on the ball,” Barr told the Lancashire Telegraph.

“There was a lack of workrate and we were outgunned by a young and hungry Middlesbrough team.

“That’s what we said at half time. I was delighted to only be one down. We could have been 4-0 down after six minutes.

“My job isn’t to come in and have a go at them, but to remind them that the gaffer (Tony Mowbray) is here watching. That’s everyone. We could be on the crest of a crisis, be it injuries or suspensions, and he’s looking at everybody, not just the seniors.

“First half wasn’t good enough, second half was better, but didn’t start that way. But it was a lot better and more enjoyable for them to play in.

“Parts of the second half, particularly latterly, reminded me of the Tottenham game (a 4-0 win) and that’s the way I want us to play.

“Our goals, I was really pleased, particularly the third one, winning the ball back, breaking forward.

“I’m happy that we got Dan Butterworth, Jack Vale and Joe Rankin-Costello, who was probably our most consistent performer on the night, on the scoresheet.

“It’s nice to be top, but there’s games to play and we have to be far better than that.”

Butterworth drew Rovers level with his fourth goal in four games since returning from injury, before Rankin-Costello headed in a second with five minutes to play. Vale added a third in the dying stages, after coming off the bench, with Rovers grateful to a fine Joe Hilton save to keep them in the game at 1-0 down.

Brereton struggled to get in to the game, utilised on the right wing, and he could be given further chance to build up his match fitness against Hertha Berlin in the Premier League International Cup on Friday.

“It’s hard for the lads coming back from injury, particularly Ben Brereton, he’s had no game-time for three months. Dom has been a bit stop-start,” Barr added.

“It’s all the intricate things, the movements, the control, but ultimately we have to have a different mindset.

“I find myself too often having to come in myself and put things right. We’re trying to give ownership to the players for them to do it themselves.

“It was a disjointed team in the first half we but we expected far more as a football club.”

Hilton kept Rovers in the game with a string of important saves, none moreso than denying Rumarn Burrell from close range after another excellent Boro counter-attack.

Barr said: “He is quite intimidating when you get close to him, but credit to him, some really good saves on the night. He probably made too many for my liking.”