Billy Barr praised the mental strength of Ben Gladwin as he ended his injury nightmare with 45 minutes for Rovers Under-23s in their Premier League Cup win over Burnley.

Gladwin made his first return to action in more than two years when playing the first half of the win at Ewood Park.

A Dominic Samuel stunner and Jacob Davenport strike put Rovers 2-0 up, but they were made to work for the victory, that keeps them top of their group with three wins from three, after Rob Harker’s second half strike.

Ben Brereton and Harry Chapman were also given minutes, and Barr praised the contribution of the more senior players.

“I thought we were really good at times, especially for a period in the second half. First half it was quite even and then Dom came up with a worldy,” he said.

“He has a knack of scoring goals, the good thing was he did the defensive part of the job first, won the ball in our half and then drove with it.

“Even he said that he missed the opportunity to play in Ben (Brereton), but the step-over and finish is outstanding.

“That’s what he brings, what he can do.

“I thought all the lads that dropped down offered us something.

“Chappy was good in tight areas in the final third, Ben offered himself in behind and was a good workout for him and I’m delighted for Ben Gladwin.”

Gladwin last played for Rovers in November 2017 after several setbacks since first suffering a season-ending knee injury in the promotion campaign.

He’s battled back to fitness, having been offered the chance to continue his rehabilitation at the club despite his deal expiring in the summer, and is expected to get more game-time for the Under-23s in the coming weeks.

“To come back after such a long time out and get through 45 minutes and he did well,” Barr added.

“He looked really strong in midfield, his legs will aching for a few days I’d have thought.

“You can have all the training and in-house games but when the ball dictates, against your local rivals, then it’s a different story.

“I thought he was really good on his return.

“I heard him say it was two years and two weeks since he last played, so to put that in to context, and having had a long-term injury myself, but nowhere near as long as that, the mental strength throughout, to be able to come back and throw himself back in, I'm delighted for him.

“That’s the biggest thing (how he recovers). Fingers crossed everything is as it should be and he has the chance to get more game-time.”

Rovers thought they had made it 3-0 midway through the second half, only for Joe Rankin-Costello to be flagged offside.

But Barr said: “Joe was well onside, we thought he was live, but have watched it back.

“That was a big moment, 3-0 kills the game off.

“From behind really good we allowed them back in and then I thought we were quite sloppy in possession.”

In the end, Rovers were grateful to two excellent Andrew Fisher saves to keep their lead intact.

The win moves Rovers to within touching distance of the knockout stages, with still three games to play.

“Two good saves from free-kicks,” he said of Fisher.

“We invited them on to us because we didn’t keep the ball well enough later in the game.

“It’s three games in a week, there was a lot of fatigue, but we stopped that run of three defeats on the trot, back to winning ways.

“It’s always nice to beat your local rivals.

“We spoke in the lead up to the game that we were top of the group and could make things a little easier for ourselves with a victory and thankfully we got there. For a big chunk of that second half I thought we were really good.”