Daniel Ayala could make his long-awaited return to action for Rovers Under-23s on Friday night.

Ayala has been out for four months and has managed just nine appearances in what has been an injury hit campaign.

The Spaniard could line-up for the Under-23s at Chelsea on Friday night and put himself in with a chance of making his first Rovers appearance of 2021 on the final day of the Championship season against Birmingham City.

The central defender has resumed light training, and he could step up his return for the Under-23s who play their penultimate fixture of the season at Chelsea who they host the following week, the day before the first-team end their campaign against Birmingham City on May 8.

“Daniel Ayala might get an Under-23s half a game next week, so maybe the Birmingham game on the final day I might put him on the bench and give him half an hour,” Mowbray revealed.

Ayala signed for Rovers in September, the club having reignited their interest in the Spaniard after their initial talks looked to have drawn a blank.

He had been a free agent since leaving Middlesbrough in June, having not played since New Year’s Day, meaning Ayala has only managed 10 appearances in the last 16 months.

The 30-year-old made one Under-23s appearance earlier in the campaign, before being thrust into the action for his debut days later against Cardiff City.

In his third consecutive start he limped off in the second half of the defeat at Watford in October and wasn’t seen again until the opening game of December, and his sixth match of the month, and in Rovers’ final fixture of 2020, he was taken off against Huddersfield and hasn’t been seen in the senior squad since.

Mowbray hopes that being careful with Ayala will see him able to last the distance upon his return before enjoying a full pre-season build-up to ensure he’s able to play a more regular part next season.

Sam Barnes missed the Under-23s’ defeat to Derby County last week with an injury, Louie Annesley returning in his place to partner Jalil Saadi, and also take on the captain’s armband.

It is likely that Ayala will partner one of the trio against Chelsea, should he feature.

“Sam’s had a bit of a tight calf so I pulled him out of the game,” Barr said.

Dan Butterworth was also not involved against the Rams despite starting the previous two matches, including getting 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

And having had an injury-hit two years, having struggled with back issues, Barr said it was a safety first approach with the attacker.

“Dan’s not had a run of games over the last couple of years,” he added. 

“To try and play him in two games in the space of five days, I felt it was risky. I made my feelings clear to the physios and they agreed for Dan’s best interests.

“He’ll be involved in the next two.”

  • Tony Mowbray shrugged off any concerns of an injury to Ryan Nyambe despite being forced off against Huddersfield Town.

The full back returned to the starting line-up against the Terriers despite missing the Sheffield Wednesday defeat with a toe injury.

He was replaced by Elliott Bennett at Hillsborough, and again for the closing stages of Saturday’s win, after twice requiring treatment.

Mowbray felt it may have been a recurrence of the toe injury that had seen him miss out last midweek, with the medical department having not reported any concerns in the wake of the 5-2 win.

“I don’t know whether someone stood on his toe, which was the issue last week, but Ryan is generally alright. He’ll be fine,” Mowbray said.

The Namibian international made his 150th league appearance for the club against Huddersfield who he made his first Championship start against in December 2016.