Rovers are working to tie up a loan deal for Jarrad Branthwaite in time for him to feature against Stoke City this weekend.

Tony Mowbray made no secret of his plan to bring in a new central defender in time for Rovers’ next Championship fixture against the Potters, two weeks on from their win at Birmingham City.

There he went with Bradley Johnson alongside Darragh Lenihan at centre half, as he did in the FA Cup defeat to Doncaster, and the reverse fixture against the Potters last month.

With Daniel Ayala set to miss the remainder of the month with a hamstring issue picked up at Huddersfield at the end of 2020, Rovers are looking to boost their defensive options with the signing of the Everton teenager.

He has been identified since the start of Rovers’ defensive search as a top target, not least given his height, mobility and preference for playing on the left side of the pairing.

That comes as Rovers are also without left-footers Derrick Williams and Scott Wharton who aren’t expected to feature again this season because of injury.

Rovers are therefore working to get Branthwaite registered in time to face the Potters this weekend in a crucial Championship fixture. To do so, Rovers would need to have the necessary paperwork submitted and have the teenager registered by 12pm on Friday.

While Mowbray isn’t one for throwing new signings straight into the mix, he may feel it is needs must given the defensive situation in defence, though one that looks to ease with the return of Ryan Nyambe after his period of self-isolation.

Branthwaite has been short of minutes at first-team level, playing just three Under-23s fixtures for Everton and 24 minutes in the Carabao Cup after an injury earlier in the season, but he has been training full time with the senior squad since October.

He was on the bench for four successive matches, including last weekend’s FA Cup tie with Rotherham, but notably not in the midweek win at Wolves.

Carlo Ancelotti has given the green light for Branthwaite to finish the season out on loan, with Rovers looking to have won the race for his signature and are now looking to close the deal.

Branthwaite has played four times for Everton in the Premier League since his move from Carlisle United last January having played 14 times for the League Two side.