Rovers Under-23s have been hit with a double injury blow, with news that Ben Paton and Jack Vale will miss the next two months.

Both came off in the defeat to Arsenal earlier this month, Vale just 20 minutes into his return to action as he suffered a recurrence of the thigh problem that had seen him miss pre-season.

The teenager made his first-team debut in July, but injury on the eve of the first pre-season friendly at Fleetwood Town saw him not involved again until the Under-23s’ 6-0 defeat to Arsenal.

He twice went down injured, before eventually being replaced by Sam Burns at the midway point of the first half, and will now miss up to eight weeks.

The same timeframe has been given to Ben Paton who was forced off at half-time against the Gunners and missed Monday’s win at Brighton.

Brad Lyons sat out the Seagulls win, but the midfielder will be welcome return to the fold for the home game with Everton tonight where a win could send Billy Barr’s side top of Premier League 2.

“Ben Paton’s a long-term absentee and will be out for between six to eight weeks, Jack Vale’s the same,” Barr said when asked for the injury latest.

“Brad will be back involved and we’ll see if there are any first team players available as well because the gaffer won’t want them falling through the cracks of not playing in the first team or Under-23s.

“The gaffer is conscious that there are players who will need game time, those that have been around the first team but have maybe not played.”

The Under-23s’ numbers have been depleted of late with Tyler Magloire and Luke Brennan both being loaned out to Hartlepool and AFC Fylde respectively.

Dan Butterworth is nearing his comeback from almost a year out with two back issues, but the Everton visit will come too early for him.

Connor McBride will be eyeing a recall to the starting line-up having come off the bench to score his sixth goal of the season in the win at Brighton, their fourth in seven games.

Sam Durrant scored an injury-time winner for Rovers, who played against 10 men for the second half after Ed Tunks was shown a straight red card for a mistimed lunge on Dan Pike, moments after the hosts had taken the lead through Jenson Weir.

Everton, winners of the division two seasons ago, are eighth in the table, with 10 points from their eight games so far.

Kick-off at Leyland is at 7pm.