Joe Rankin-Costello made a goalscoring return to action for Rovers Under-23s after long-term injury, and looks better than ever according to boss Damien Johnson.

The highly rated teenager penned his first professional contract with the club at 17 and has been tipped for a bright future at Ewood Park.

But a long-term knee injury picked up in training meant his start in the 7-1 win over Leicester City on Monday was his first in 12 months.

His Rovers contract expires in the summer and Rovers are expected to open talks about an extension in the coming months.

For now though, Johnson is happy with the 19-year-old’s progression following his injury and credited the club’s medical staff for their role in his recovery.

“He had a bad injury and when you miss 12 months of football, from his last full game with us, it’s a long time and it can take a young player a while,” Johnson said.

“The harder they work with the physios and sports science team then the better chance they give themselves.

“Credit to Sam Kelly and Liam Mason because the condition he has come back in has given him the opportunity to hit the ground running. I’m really pleased with him.”

Rankin-Costello arrived at Rovers in 2014/15 following his release from Manchester United, a path also taken by Dan Butterworth who continues to progress at a rapid rate.

Attacking midfielder Rankin-Costello made his sole first team appearance when he came off the bench in the Checkatrade Trophy defeat to Bury last season.

And he will now be looking to fulfil the promise which had seen him viewed as one of the most promising prospects at the club.

He came off the bench in the Under-23s’ defeat to Derby County last month, but was thrust in from the start against the Foxes, operating in an unfamiliar right wing-back role.

From there he opened the scoring, turning home a Butterworth cross, while also having a hand in one of two second half strikes for Jack Vale.

Rankin-Costello came through the 90 minutes unscathed, and will look to back up a promising display when the Under-23s face Everton in the Premier League Cup on Friday.

“He was playing out of position. We don’t have a natural right back or wing back in the side now,” Johnson said.

“Hayden Carter has been playing there, but he’s a centre half, and Joe likes to play inside and higher up the pitch.

“But he’s a talented player and we’ve missed him.

“He has a terrific attitude and he has shown that throughout his injury which has been a long 12 months.

“He has applied himself to his rehab and since coming back, the challenge for him was to come back better physical and he has done.

“Credit to him, he influenced the game and ended up in the last 10 minutes as centre forward.

“That’s the intelligence Joe brings and the intelligence he has.”