Mike Sheron says he will continue to hand opportunities to Rovers’ Under-18s as part of the club’s plans to accelerate the development of their young players.

The Under-18s are riding high, topping the table sitting six points clear of closest challengers Manchester United having won six and drawn two of their opening nine games.

More players from that age group are getting chances for the Under-23s who in turn have allowed a number of their more senior players to go out on loan.

Sheron was promoted from the Under-18s to take the Under-23s job after the departure of Billy Barr and his side have enjoyed mixed results at the start of the Premier League 2 season, with 11 points from 11 games after the 6-0 defeat at Derby County.

Yet the progression of players will always be the yard stick of how the Academy as a whole is producing, with several players regularly training with the first-team.

Harry Leonard was sent off in the defeat to Derby County last time out, but was promoted to the Under-23s after six goals in five games for the Under-18s, with Jay Haddow, Adam Wharton and Charlie Weston among those to have bridged the gap.

The Under-23s are in action tomorrow afternoon as they head to QPR in their third Premier League Cup group game, with all four sides in Group B locked on three points from two games.

Tony Mowbray could look to hand minutes to some more senior players in the game, having done so in recent Premier League 2 matches, but if it requires the Under-18s to step up, then Sheron is more than willing to do.

He said: “We’ve been pleased with how the Under-18s have been performing this season and I’ve never been someone who’s shy to put the Under-18s forward because we have some good players.

“The next challenge for them is to stake their claim to stay in the team week in, week out.

“Adam Wharton is one of those and produced a really strong performance.

“We can still be more proactive and forward-thinking but I’m sure we’ll win more games than we’ll lose.”

Top scorer Sam Burns is currently on loan at FC United of Manchester, while captain Louie Annesley was allowed to join National League side Woking FC on a one-month deal.

Several regulars, such as Sam Barnes and Isaac Whitehall, are currently out injured as is top prospect Ash Phillips who withdrew from the England Under-17s squad last month and is yet to return to action.

Dan Pike saw his loan spell at AFC Fylde cut short by injury, but there is a chance that the right back could feature against Rangers today after his lay-off.

Rovers are keen to get more of their young players out on loan, with Connor McBride having seen a move to an EFL club fall down on deadline day in the summer, with the club wanting to promote scholars into the Under-23s picture.

The average age of the Under-23s side has therefore been reduced this season, including for the Premier League Cup win over Middlesbrough last month.

Rovers were beaten 4-1 in their opening group game by a Joe Lolley inspired Nottingham Forest, with their goal difference leaving them bottom of the group, despite the 3-2 win over Boro.

Rangers thrashed Forest 6-2 in their last match to top the group, having been beaten by group leaders Boro 1-0 in their opening fixture.

The top two sides after the six group games will progress to the round of 16 knockout stages.

One player who won’t be featuring is Zak Gilsenan, the talented teenager set for an extended period out with an ACL injury.

The 18-year-old impressed in the 1-0 win at Chelsea last month, and also for Republic of Ireland Under-19s, before his injury.

“It’s been frustrating for Zak because he’s a boy with ability and an enthusiast to earn a career from the game,” Sheron said.

“I thought his performance for us at Chelsea was really positive.

“He then went away with Ireland and got really positive feedback from their coaches. We were hoping that that would only grow his confidence and consistency, but he’s unfortunately picked up a bad injury.

“He’ll be out for a while now and it’s bad news for Zak, but he’s in a place with us where he can recover and come back even stronger.

“He’s in a position where he can see others who have had similar setbacks and have recovered stronger.”

Rovers are back in Premier League 2 action when they host Arsenal on Monday at Leyland (7pm).