GOALKEEPER Joe Bursik has backed Accrington Stanley’s young defenders to rise to the challenge.

With experienced centre half Mark Hughes out for the season with a calf injury, the Reds are relying on a largely rookie back five for the run-in.

The new-look rearguard made a decent start with a point and clean sheet against struggling Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

And teenager Bursik believes it is a good platform for them to build on for the remaining 10 games.

“It’s important to have an experienced centre half, it helps with the little things. With the naked eye you don’t see it, but we do,” said Bursik, of Hughes’ influence on the defence.

“It’s important, but the young lads have a lot of league games under their belts. They come in and do the job.”

With Hughes missing the defeat at Oxford last week, Stanley fielded a back five with an average age of 20.4, in Bursik (19), Callum Johnson (23), Ross Sykes (20), Jerome Opoku (21) and Aji Alese (19).

There were changes for Saturday’s trip to the University of Bolton Stadium, with 23-year-old Harvey Rodgers and 24-year-old Joey Maguire coming into the line-up, after Alese was also ruled out through injury.

“You’d have to say they’re learning on the job. That’s probably the best way to learn to be honest. But sometimes you go through a bit of pain when you do that,” said Stanley boss John Coleman.

“I think we have got the makings of a good team, we’ve just got to keep going and make sure we ensure League One football for next season.”

Bursik, who is on loan from Stoke, says the move has been ideal for his football education and development.

“At first you learn a lot within the first block of five games, you learn about concentration, focus, all these little things that you don’t really work on in training," he explained.

“I’ve learnt a lot and the past few games I think I’ve really settled in and taken it in my stride.

“You’re always learning and it’s good having different players playing in front of you. They have different qualities. It’s a good challenge.”

He added: “You’ve just got to go in and do the basics right and prove why you should stay in the team, which is what all the boys are doing.

“We’ve got a young squad, and everyone knows that. We’re doing well, everyone has their different qualities and the gaffer sees that.

“I feel like he’s confident to put players in, but we’ve got a good squad depth.”