James O'Connor interview

SAFETY first might be one of the basic rules of defending.

But for James O'Connor it's more than that - it's an entire way of thinking!

The no-nonsense defender wholeheartedly refuses to talk about Doncaster Rovers challenging for promotion to the Premier League.

O'Connor, one of Rovers' most versatile and consistent performers in recent seasons, was a picture of frustration and anger after Saturday's calamitous 3-0 home defeat to Reading.

* For full interview see this week's Free Press

He said: "It was a bit like one step forward and two back for us at the weekend.

"There was a bit of a buzz about the place with Matt coming in but then we let ourselves down with the performance.

"It was a disappointing start for Matt in terms of the result but I thought he played really well.

"As a defensive unit we're a work in progress and I'm sure we'll all get better the more we play together.

"I think it'll help to get a settled back four which isn't something we've had at all this season.

"That's not an excuse - it's a fact.

"Hopefully if we get that then things will start to improve.

"I'd like to think Matt will come in and make a difference.

"From what I've heard he's a top quality player and you don't get a move to the Premier League without being exactly that.

"I'm sure he'll be a great addition to the squad and hopefully he can help us reach those 55 points as quickly as possible."

O'Connor, whose foraging forward runs from wing back caught the eye on Saturday, could only look on in dismay as his side conceded three of the softest goals you could ever imagine against the Royals.

And the defender admitted that a few home truths were shared in the dressing room afterwards.

"We were obviously really disappointed with the performance.

"You've got to give some credit to Reading because I thought they were solid and their two centre halves played really well for them.

"But we can't give three goals away like we did at this level.

"That's what cost us.

"A few harsh words were said after the game and we won't just brush what happened under the carpet.

"We didn't play well but if we had defended correctly we might've come away with a point.

"But all three goals were really poor from our point of view.

"We played three at the back so we shouldn't have got done with a long ball which happened for the first goal.

"The second one we've been really naive and got caught upfield and left ourselves one on one at the back - and the third was just a calamity.

"Reading are a really well organised side and they had good attacking players - especially Shane Long who's a player I rate highly - but we've got to be better than what we were.

"We'll sit down this week and look at why things went wrong and try and put them right," he added.

"There's a lot of games coming up over the next few weeks and it's a great chance to make amends for what happened on Saturday and get on a bit of a run.

"The next home game's a local derby agaisnt Barnsley so that's the perfect game to make it up to our fans as a team.

"As an individual I really enjoyed myself last season and I've probably not quite hit those heights in terms of my own level of performance.

"That's something I'll be looking to do in the second half of the season."

defender with a target: James O'Connor will be smiling if Rovers reach 55 points as soon as possible. Picture: Liz Mockler D6964LM.