Left-back Kevin’s had to play game of patience at PNE

Preston defender Kevin O'Connor
Preston defender Kevin O'Connor
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Kevin O’Connor’s lengthy wait for his first-team chance with Preston did not come as much of a surprise to the left-back.

There was a three-month gap between him landing at Deepdale and making his Championship debut in the 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa.

In between there was only August’s League Cup visit to Accrington to give O’Connor a taste of English football.

He agreed his switch from Cork City at the end of June but only joined PNE a month later with Sean Maguire.

O’Connor,22, was initially behind Greg Cunningham in the left-back pecking order.

But when Cunningham was injured in August, it was teenager Josh Earl who got the nod from Alex Neil to go into the first team.

“I didn’t expect to come over and play straight away,” O’Connor told the Post. “We have a great squad here, I knew I’d have to bide my time and I just had to be ready when the opportunity came.

“It came against Villa and it was good to play in that game against such a big team.

“I thought we did well in the second half but we didn’t get the result we wanted, which was disappointing.

“Once you get the chance you’ve got to try and impress and take it with open arms.”

O’Connor’s chance against Villa came when Earl strained the medial ligament in his right knee before half-time.

He stayed in the team to make his full league debut at Ipswich.

Whether Earl recovers in time for Friday’s game against Bolton, remains to be seen.

O’Connor says the long injury list in defence has not helped of late, with North End losing their last four games.

The injuries hit hardest in the Villa and Ipswich matches.

Said O’Connor: “The 
defence is where you win most of your games, having a solid base at the back. We’ve had to use so many back fours over the course of the year already, we haven’t been able to settle on one.

“There’s not much we can do about that if lads are getting injuries.

“Most of them are impact injuries and you can’t really do anything about that.

“It’s next man up and trying to go in and get the job done.

“The results haven’t gone our way the last few weeks but there have been games where we’ve just been unlucky.

“We’ve either conceded at the wrong time or things haven’t gone our way.

“The mood in the camp will never change though.

“There’s a great group in the dressing room, everyone is pulling for each other and that’s all you can ask for.

“I’ve never seen anything like the injury list and the way it has hit us.

“We came into the season with 12 defenders and you’re wondering if you’re going to use all 12 at some stage.”