BLACKBURN Rovers midfielder Dickson Etuhu has moved a ‘massive’ step closer to a first-team return after coming through his first full game since recovering from a long-term knee injury.

The Nigeria international midfielder played 90 minutes as Rovers went down 1-0 to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium in the Barclays U21s Premier League on Monday.

Etuhu will now be assessed in training.

If he recovers from his first full outing in almost a year he could be included in Gary Bowyer’s squad for this Saturday’s Championship clash at Brighton & Hove Albion.

Rovers boss Bowyer said: “Dickson has been back in training for a while now but the fact that he’s played a full 90 will do him a world of good.

“We’ve got to see how he recovers from his first 90 minutes and we’ll do that in training as the week goes on.

“We’ll speak with him and make the right decision.

“It’s a massive step forward for him.”

Etuhu made his competitive comeback in the 3-2 Lancashire FA Senior Cup win over Rochdale last week.

The 31-year-old – whose last league appearance for Rovers was way back on December 15, 2012 – played an hour before being replaced.

But he was not risked for Saturday’s 1-0 Championship victory over Middlesbrough at Ewood Park.

Fit-again full-back Adam Henley was, however, included in a Rovers matchday squad for the first time this season.

The 19-year-old did not make it off the bench.

But he will be pushing for his first appearance of the campaign against Brighton after playing the full match in Monday’s U21s loss to Leicester.

The Foxes settled a contest they dominated when, with 20 minutes remaining, Jacob Blyth bundled the ball home after David Raya was unable to collect a corner.

Rovers U21s boss Eric Kinder said: “I thought with the side we had out that it wasn’t a good performance.

“I thought the second half was slightly better, their keeper has been forced to make a top-class save from Dean Rittenberg.

“So there were a few positives to take out of it, Dickson has come through 90 minutes for the first time in a long, long time and we’ve Adam Henley, Darragh Lenihan and John O’Sullivan all back.

“But I don’t think there’s many in the dressing room can sit there and say that they’ve had a good game.

“I think the effort is there, I can’t criticise the effort, but we need to get the basics right.”

Rovers’ starting line-up also included Jordan Slew.

The striker – a £1.1m Steve Kean signing from Sheffield United in September 2011 – was making his first appearance since the summer after sustaining a back injury.

Rovers U18s, meanwhile, lost 6-0 at Fulham on Saturday.