Daniel Ayala pinpointed the importance of his pre-season after enjoying a strong start to the Championship campaign.

Ayala put in a commanding display to help Rovers to a clean sheet in the 1-0 success over QPR.

It was just a 33rd appearance for the Spaniard who has endured an injury-hit opening two years at the club.

When fit however, Ayala has demonstrated his qualities and the 31-year-old did just that against Rangers.

And he credits a strong pre-season for getting him into the position that he finds himself in.

Ayala arrived at the club in September 2020 as a free agent, having not played a competitive match in eight months.

Rovers had also completed their pre-season programme ahead of the new season, with Ayala playing catch-up from the off.

Of this year, he said: “Everyone has had a good pre-season but for me, it is crucial.

“When I get a good pre-season, I always perform a lot better.

“I think it's showing, hopefully I can keep the injuries away. For me, to be honest, I believe in what I can do but I have always been with injuries.

“I just hope this year can be the year where I don't really get it.”

Ayala impressed at the start of last season, with 16 consecutive starts before injury struck.

That ruled him out for two months, while the form of the club’s other defensive options, and then a further injury in February, meant he only made six more six appearances.

Where previously Rovers managed Ayala’s training time, Jon Dahl Tomasson has looked to include him in the majority of sessions, and praised the role of performance director Ben Rosen.

Speaking of Ayala’s importance earlier in the summer, Tomasson said: “He’s a good player, everyone knows that, but we want to see that every Saturday.

“You can’t see a good player if he’s sitting inside.”

The importance of keeping Ayala fit has gone up a notch following the hamstring injury sustained by Hayden Carter.

That is set to keep the 22-year-old out of action for the remainder of the month.

Rovers are looking to add in that area, with Sam Barnes having been the defensive cover on the bench, the first inclusion in a matchday squad for the Academy prospect.