Billy Barr says a first league start for Joe Rankin-Costello has been a boost to all of Rovers’ fledging Academy prospects.

The Under-23s are in Premier League Cup action at Middlesbrough on Friday night, having already qualified for the knockout stages, but many of their squad from the last two seasons have since been promoted in to the first-team set-up.

Rankin-Costello came off the bench in wins over Sheffield Wednesday and QPR before being handed his chance from the start at Middlesbrough last weekend.

John Buckley has also made his breakthrough in the last calendar year, with Lewis Travis enjoying a standout 2019 after graduating from the Under-23s.

And Barr says that pathway will only offer encouragement to his current group who will have been boosted by the opportunities handed out by boss Tony Mowbray.

Tyler Magloire, back from his loan spell at Rochdale, made his first-team debut last season, and were it not for an injury that will keep him out for several more weeks, attacker Dan Butterworth would likely have been around the matchday 18.

“For every young player in the first team squad, they have to keep believing they will get a chance,” Barr explained.

“It’s pleasing for the whole football club because there are a lot of people that have worked with these young players.

“So to see them get a start in the first team, it’s really pleasing.”

Rankin-Costello made 13 appearances for the Under-23s this season, scoring four times, and would likely have got his opportunity sooner were it not for injuries.

One player enjoying a good run of form, and with an eye on first-team progression, is left back Lewis Thompson.

He spent time last season on loan at FC United of Manchester and has made the left back spot in the Under-23s his own.

With Rovers short of options in that area having allowed Sam Hart to join Shrewsbury Town on loan, there could be an opportunity at senior level for the 20-year-old before the season is out should his form continue.

And the Northern Ireland international, who signed from Manchester United in 2016, is getting better by the game, according to Barr.

“I’ve had Thommo now for four years. What you get off Thommo is determination, desire and hard work.

“The technical side is improving as well. You see him late in the game going up and beyond and putting the crosses in.

“He’s going along well.

“I don’t want them in this team. I want them in the first team, so we’ll keep pushing them and see where they can get to.”