Harry Middleton was close to starting for Rovers at Peterborough, Paul Dickov has revealed.
The academy graduate was handed his first league appearance for the club in a surprise 34th minute substitution against Posh, replacing Marc De Val.
And Dickov said the midfielder was almost selected ahead of his Spanish colleague.
“He was close to starting after his performances for the development squad recently,” Dickov told the Star.
“Harry is a great kid and he’s a player we think highly of.
“He’s been slightly unfortunate with the form of Paul Keegan, Richie Wellens, Marc De Val and Dean Furman being ahead of him.
“But in the last eight to ten weeks he’s really stepped up in training and in the development squad games.
“I spoke to him the day before the Peterborough game and told him he was closer to starting than he thinks.
“He was looking at me as though I was stupid.
“He’s a good footballer and he’s a kid who has got a great attitude.”
Middleton has started one game for Rovers, a JP Trophy clash with Crewe two seasons ago, and made a substitute appearance in the same competition earlier this season.
His first league minutes came after Dickov took the decision to withdraw De Val, shortly after receiving a yellow card.
The Spanish midfielder could not hide his frustration as he left the field but Dickov revealed De Val had apologised afterwards.
He said: “I spoke to Marc and he completely understands why I took him off.
“The last thing we wanted to happen, especially with the referee’s performance, was to have a man sent off.”
De Val came into the side to replace Richie Wellens, who suffered a hamstring injury in the Boxing Day win over Coventry.
Dickov hopes Wellens will be fit to face Bristol City in the FA Cup on Saturday but is supremely confident the midfield ace will return for the trip to Oldham Athletic a week later.