Joe Rankin-Costello is set to feature again for the Under-23s next week with Rovers not wanting to rush his return to first-team action.

A 45 minute outing in Friday’s win over West Ham United came three days short of three months since Rankin-Costello limped out of the 1-1 draw at Luton Town, his second hamstring injury of the season.

It is a problem the 21-year-old has had since breaking into the senior side, having also come off in the win at Derby County in September, restricting him to just nine Championship starts.

He played a planned 45 minutes in the 4-1 win over the young Hammers and is in line to feature again when the Under-23s travel to Tottenham Hotspur next month.

Rankin-Costello has established himself as a first-team player within the last 12 months, and Under-23s boss Billy Barr, who has been part of the youngster’s progress since joining from Manchester United as a teenager, says the club will take their time with his return.

He said: “It’s been a very stop-start year, he’s come back, gone into the first-team, he’s got injured, and I think the plan is to give him a little bit more game-time in the Under-23s.

“Then with game-time and through training in three or four weeks he’ll be ready for the first-team.”

Rankin-Costello lined up at right back, where he has played for the first-team this season, in what were testing conditions at Leyland.

“I thought he did well,” Barr added.

“I look at him and I think he sees things more than others, that’s the experience.

“I think he was disappointed to be running into the wind rather than have it behind him but he got through and he’ll play for us against at Tottenham next week.”

There was a return between the sticks for goalkeeper Antonis Stergiakis who made a string of important saves.

Rovers’ loan dealings in January saw a number of Under-23s loaned out, offering opportunities for the likes of Jake Garrett to come into the side.

Joe Hilton’s switch to Ross County means it will be Stergiakis and Jordan Eastham vying for game-time, leaving Barr happy with his options.

“Jordan and Antonis will end up swapping game-time, the outfield players, we’ve got a big group,” he said.

“Some that aren’t quite there will come back in when they’re fit so the group is in a good place.

“We just want to make sure we can keep them there and finish the season in a really good way.”