York City's Jack O’Connell set to locking horns with Rotherham strike force

Loan star Jack O’Connell is  relishing a return to Rotherham to prove a point

Loan star Jack O’Connell is relishing a return to Rotherham to prove a point

First published in News York Press: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter

TEENAGE York City centre-back Jack O’Connell is relishing the prospect of locking horns with 6ft 3in former team-mates Kayode Odejayi and Alex Revell.

O’Connell played with the striking heavyweights during a loan spell with the Millers between November and January.

The pair also lined up as second-half partners during Rotherham’s last match – a 2-1 triumph at Bristol Rovers where half-time replacement Odejayi was on target.

But England under-19 international O’Connell will not be intimidated if Rotherham boss Steve Evans wants both to lead the line against the Minstermen tonight.

The on-loan Blackburn Rovers defender said: “They like to get it up quickly to the two big lads up front for them to hold the ball up and play off them. I can’t wait to go back there and, hopefully, I can get a goal as well.”

O’Connell, 18, started three games for tonight’s South Yorkshire hosts and played a further two as a substitute, but he was played out of position at left-back.

He is now looking forward to a chance to showcase his central-defensive talents on his return to the New York Stadium, adding: “I found it hard there because I did not play in the position I like to but, if you get told to play left-back, you do the best you can.

“The move didn’t work out for me though and I have a point to prove, especially going back there in my position. The back four is playing well so, hopefully, we can take that into tonight’s game.”

Despite the rivals being separated by 12 places and 16 points in League Two, O’Connell believes City are capable of prising a good result against the Millers.

City have already won 1-0 at the New York Stadium in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy this season and, in their nine League trips to top-11 sides this term, Gary Mills’ players have only lost once – to Burton.

O’Connell said: “Before I came to York, I spoke to my mate (Ryan Edwards) who was on loan at Rochdale and he told me everyone beats each other in this League and he’s right so I am expecting a good game in front of a decent derby crowd.”

Like O’Connell, teenager Edwards was playing regular League Two football for Dale until the turn of the year and the Lancastrian Championship club clearly believe in the benefits of blooding their youngsters lower down the football pyramid.

Liverpool-born O’Connell also recognises the importance of cutting his professional teeth with the Minstermen, admitting: “It’s tiring but I’m enjoying it and I’ve just got to keep going and get up for the next game.

“Playing in League Two is more physical than playing for Blackburn reserves, which is more about just keeping the ball. At this level, it’s non-stop stuff and you have to be switched on for 96 minutes.

“I’ve got another year left on my Blackburn contract after this one so, hopefully, being on loan might get me another one. My aim is to play for Blackburn and this can only help me in the long run and playing League Two football is good for me as a person and as a player.”

O’Connell has also been grateful for the presence of City’s 31-year-old skipper Chris Smith alongside him at the heart of defence.

“I’m learning a lot from him obviously,” he explained. “He talks me through the games. It’s good to have him next to me.”

The on-loan Minsterman is now hoping the team can reproduce the defensive resilience shown during the 0-0 draw at Oxford, while adding a cutting edge to their play.

He added: “It was a good result getting a clean sheet away from home and we were solid. They had two good strikers who put themselves about but I thought we dealt with them well. We’ve just got to start winning games and putting our chances away.”

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