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WHITNEY HAILS 'OUTSTANDING' O'CONNELL

23 January 2017

Boss heaps praise on defender after 3-1 win...

Jon Whitney hailed the “outstanding” performance of Eoghan O’Connell after the Saddlers’ comfortable 3-1 victory over Bristol Rovers. 

The young defender capped a composed, man-of-the-match display with an expertly-taken volley - his first career goal - in just his second appearance for the club. 

And Whitney was full of praise for the talented 21-year-old afterwards – stating he is a "winner”. 

“I thought Eoghan was outstanding,” Whitney commented. “His technical side was really good. 

“One of his biggest fortes is that he’s so comfortable on the ball. He doesn’t panic which is great because we are a team that want to retain the ball and I think we’ve struggled with that this season a little bit. 

“He brings that, he brings a presence and he’s a winner. I think the players respect him already for what he is. He’s just one of those energisers and that goes through his family. He’s a great kid. 

“But I didn’t know he could score goals like that. But I’ll take it – it’s a nice string to his bow. 

“I think his dad was here watching as well. He’s got a good sporting tradition in his family – his uncle was the Lions captain and you can see he has a winning mentality which was key in us bringing him in.” 

O’Connell’s first-half opener set us on our way to back-to-back wins – and Whitney was delighted with the energy his team showed. 

“People say you’re as good as your last game,” Whitney added. “I said to the lads ‘your last game was 4-1 against Sheffield United so take that second half and see if you can hit the ground running again’. 

“I thought the first-half [against Rovers] was better than last week. I thought we controlled it better and pressed higher up the pitch, had better energy. We weren’t as safe as last week. 

“There was great energy from the lads, great pressure on the ball. I said to them ‘when I was a player, I would have hated to play against you’ – and I was a fit player. 

“But some of the energy we showed, I probably couldn’t have lived with it. But you’ve got to have a bit of quality as well, look after the ball and create opportunities so it’s nice to have scored seven goals in the last two home games. 

“It was important we got back-to-back wins as it builds confidence, and it keeps us in touch [with the clubs above us]. Hopefully we can keep pegging teams back now.”

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