Tony Mowbray feels John Buckley’s physique can make him an easy target for criticism – but the manager maintains full faith in the talented 20-year-old.

Buckley has struggled for opportunities since making back-to-back starts over the festive period but made a goalscoring return to the side in the win over Charlton Athletic.

The Academy graduate has featured 17 times this season, and is less than 12 months in to his senior career after his debut at Sheffield Wednesday in March 2019.

However, he is highly-rated at the club and tipped for a bright future, with further opportunities expected before the season is out.

He was handed a start in his favoured No.10 role and opened the scoring with a deflected shot and showed several neat touches before being replaced late on.

His slight physique has led some supporters to question his readiness for first-team football, but his technical ability is undoubted, and Mowbray says the injuries in the attacking areas of the pitch have presented Buckley with another opportunity.

He explained: “John is a boy really, but he’s a very talented boy.

“Physically he finds it difficult at times and, if he doesn’t have a great game, people are quick to jump on this small-framed boy who gets knocked about at times, but he will grow into his body one of these days, a year or two.

“His talent is unquestionable and he’s an exciting talent for the club. Because of the injuries, he’s got an opportunity. He grabbed it.

“It was great for him to do what he does.

“We can see what he struggles with and that he has to mature and his body will become stronger as he gets older.

“But he’s a wonderful talent and is a confident who we tried to get between the lines and delighted for him to get a goal.”

Buckley has come through the ranks at Rovers, being with the club for more than half of his 20 years, and has been a stand-out performer for the Under-23s in recent times.

The midfielder has worked closely with technical coach, and former Academy boss, Damien Johnson to work on his game.

And Mowbray says that demonstrates to him Buckley will do all he can to make his way in the game.

“Although he’s still a young boy whose physical frailties you can spot at times, the talent of John Buckley with the ball is unquestionable,” he told the club website.

“He will grow into a man one day, but he has lovely fast feet, he can play off either foot, he sees forward passes, he can dribble and carry the ball, he’s got bags of energy and although he’s still got some physical weaknesses, we’re delighted with his progress and his goal.

“He’s desperate to be a footballer.

“Nobody wants to work harder or put in the hours at our football club more than John.

“He’s always asking questions, he’s always on the training ground after training’s finished honing his craft and I’m just delighted that he’s reaping the rewards of all of the hard work that he puts in.”