DONCASTER Rovers defender James O’Connor has been one of the most consistent players at the club since his £130,000 move from Bournemouth over five years ago.
But the 27 year-old, who has played across the back-four readily admits that things haven’t been going nearly half as well for him so far this season.
“Since the turn of the year I’ve had a few different niggles and it’s been a bit stop-start,” he said. “I had a cartilage operation in the summer which meant I missed the start of the season, so it’s been difficult.
“Naturally I want to get back to where I was and regain the sort of form that I was in say, 12 to 18 months ago. It’s all about trying to get a run of games but I know that it doesn’t just happen, so I’ve been working very hard in training every day and I’ll continue to do so.
“I’ve not played as many games as I would have liked this season.
“But it’s not just about getting back into the team, it is about staying there because there is a lot of competition for places and that’s what you need - especially in our situation.”
“When you’ve had a good time somewhere but are not quite hitting the heights it’s frustrating, But it’s up to the individual to do something about it.”
O’Connor has started just seven games this season and the fact that manager Dean Saunders has brought several Premier League defenders in of late won’t help his cause.
Yet he supports the club’s initiative.
“As a club we’re currently at the bottom of the league so if the manager is bringing in quality players who are improving the squad, and improving the team, then hopefully that will bring about and improvement in results and that what we all want,” he said.
“It’s up to the players who are already here to work hard and play well to try and keep their place in the team.
“The gaffer made the point when he first came in that we are where we are and things have got to change because if they don’t we’ll keep getting the same results.
“Injuries were obviously a factor earlier in the season but I don’t think that you can use that as an excuse any more. I think it’s time to close the book on that really as most of them are back.
“Injuries are also part of football.”
Like the rest of his team-mates, O’Connor knows that it is vital that Rovers pick up points - preferably wins - in tomorrow’s home game against Watford and Tuesday’s trip to Millwall.
“The Watford game in the middle of a run of three games that we had targeted to do well in following the win at Ipswich before the international break,” said O’Connor who was recalled to the side in last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Oakwell.
“We had hoped to be going into the game on the back of a good result from the Barnsley game but that’s not the case,” said the Birmingham-born defender.
“Watford are just above the relegation zone but whoever you are playing in this league you can’t underestimate them. It’s a tough division.”
Teams and ref
ROVERS: (possible): Ikeme, O’Connor, Goulon, Beye, Ilunga, Coppinger, Stock, Gillett, Bennett, Diouf, Sharp (4-4-2).
WATFORD: (possible) Loach, Hodson, Mariappa, Nosworthy, Dickinson, Yeates, Kighly,Buaben, Mirfin, Sodell, Iwelumo (4-4-2)
Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancs). Has dished out seven red and 56 yellow cards in 15 matches.
It finished honours even in both games between the two sides last season.
Rovers snatched a useful 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road in early September with the Hornets grabbing a point in the return at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Beaten 2-1 at the Keepmoat the previous season, the Hornets posted a 2-1 win on their first visit to the stadium in 2008-09.
One to watch
Striker Marviin Sordell is the Hornets top scorer this season with six and his partnership with former Wolves’ target man Chris Iwelumo will prove a test for the Doncaster back-four.
Not the biggest of forwards, Sordell boasts the pace to test the best Championship defences though he has yet to reproduce the form he showed last season.