Richie Smallwood says he won’t be giving his central midfield spot up without a fight despite the emergence of Lewis Travis on the first team scene.

Travis was expected to leave the club on loan this month, but is now set to make his sixth consecutive start when Rovers host Ipswich Town at Ewood Park tomorrow.

Smallwood says the 21-year-old Academy graduate has deserved his run in the team, helped by the 28-year-old’s three game ban, and admits he understands the position Travis has found himself in.

The pair played alongside each other in the FA Cup third round replay defeat to Newcastle United and Smallwood, an ever-present last season, wants to regain his place in the middle of midfield.

“It reminds me of being at Middlesbrough when I was younger,” Smallwood said of Travis.

“For 12 months he’s been in and around the squad. When I was younger at Middlesbrough, I thought that I should be playing as well. It’s just about being patient, which he has been.

“He’s finally got his chance and he’s shown that he’s good enough and he can play. He’s earned the trust of the manager so that’s fair play to him.

“I believe that I can win my shirt back. It can only be good for the squad going forward, if it gets positive results whatever the manager puts out then you can’t argue.”

Travis was handed his first league start of the season in the 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United last month, a game in which Smallwood was shown a straight red card.

Smallwood and Corry Evans, who is likely to shake off an ankle injury to be passed fit for tomorrow’s game, have been Mowbray’s go-to central midfield pair within the last 12 months.

The boss believes the experienced duo have earned his trust, but Smallwood accepts Travis’ performances have shown he deserves the recognition he’s received.

He added: Trav’s shown that he can do it as well. The competition for places is stronger now than it has been for the last 18 months.

“We’re all fighting for the same thing, it’s healthy competition. Let’s just keep winning games.”

Smallwood’s three game ban saw him miss the league wins against West Brom and Millwall, as well as the draw with Newcastle at St James’ Park.

He revealed he had done extra fitness work while he was suspended, in a bid to stay sharp, with the replay timed perfectly for his return with Evans unavailable through injury.

“I was fortunate for the Newcastle game to come around really, so I could be available for selection sooner than I would normally be,” he said.

“It was nice to be out there, it’s never nice missing games, but it is what it is, I took it in my stride and now I’m back.

“I was getting itchy fee. I did a little bit at home; a bit of running just to keep myself in good shape, I didn’t want to lose too much really.”

Rovers have enjoyed a good start to 2019, after a disappointing end to 2018 in which they lost three consecutive matches. They will be eyeing a third straight win when they host struggling Ipswich Town, with Hull City next up at Ewood next weekend.

“West Brom at home was a massive win and then obviously last weekend (at Millwall).

“We’ve got two home games coming up and we know they’re not going to be easy; Hull are on a very good run. We’ve got Ipswich on Saturday with the returning manager, they got a big win at the weekend. We know it’s not going to be easy, we’ll have to be on our A game and I’m sure we will be.”