Rotherham United: Millers ace hopes to avoid Preston in play-off semi-finals

Michael O'Connor holds the ball under pressure from Alan Smith
Michael O'Connor holds the ball under pressure from Alan Smith
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Millers midfielder Michael O’Connor reckons Preston are the best of the three other teams in the League One play-offs.

He admits he would rather avoid them in the two-legged semi-finals when the placings will be decided by the outcome of Saturday’s final games of the regular league season.

“Preston are probably the best team I’ve played against so, hopefully, we’ll avoid them initially,” said O’Connor.

“But whether it’s them, Leyton Orient or Peterborough, it’s going to be tough but it will be about getting to the final. Then we can take it from there and you’re not bothered who you meet.”

It will be the first time O’Connor has experienced the play-offs.

“I’ve never been involved in them before but I’ve heard about them and, obviously, watched them but I do know that once we get Saturday’s game out of the way, we have two big games coming up,” he said. “Firstly, we want to go to Swindon and win and play in a way that gets us ready for what’s to come.

“Perhaps, since getting in the play-offs, we haven’t quite had the urgency, a little edge has been missing. But we’ve a chance to get back to our standard on Saturday before we go into the extra games.”

O’Connor began the season as first choice but a groin injury on international duty in the Autumn cost him his place.

“I was flying for the first 10 games or so but then got the injury when away with Northern Ireland,” he said. “I had three or four weeks out and then just could not get going again.

“Recently, I’ve been on the bench but the fact is the team wasn’t losing and went on that unbeaten run for 16 matches so it was difficult to get back in.”

He was unable to dislodge loan signing Richie Smallwood but the current three-match ban for the man from Middlesbrough - with two games of it left - together with the recent injury to Lee Frecklington, have seen O’Connor back in the frame.

Meanwhile, the Millers had a private friendly against Leeds United yesterday to get some game time into members of their squad with Frecklington also scheduled to be involved.