JAMES O’Connor has spoken of the most “frustrating” spell of his Doncaster Rovers career and told The Star he is uncertain of his long-term future at the club.
The steady right-back made just his second start in nearly two months in the 2-1 Easter Monday reversal at home to Burnley.
First-choice regular Pascal Chimbonda failed to shake off a hamstring problem he sustained at Leicester City, meaning O’Connor made his 26th appearance of the season.
Under Sean O’Driscoll, the 27-year-old was one of the first names on the team-sheet as Rovers consistently punched above their weight in the Championship.
But O’Connor’s first-team opportunities have been limited at the South Yorkshire club since Dean Saunders succeeded O’Driscoll at the helm last September.
The versatile defender, who can also operate at centre-back, is contracted until 2013 but he concedes he does not know whether he figures in Saunders plans.
O’Connor, who joined Rovers in May 2006 from Bournemouth in a £130,000 deal, said: “It has been frustrating and disappointing this season. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.
“It has probably been the first time I have experienced being left out in my career.
“All you can do is go into training and work hard and give your all.
“I am a professional and I have kept myself going.
“If I didn’t do that, I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror when I go home at the end of training.
“Whatever the situation is, I’m always going to work hard in the good and the bad times.
“I have got another year on my contract and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the summer with people. We will wait and see what happens.”
O’Connor said he was “surprised” to be recalled against the Clarets. He was one of nine changes made by Saunders as rock-bottom Rovers suffered a third loss in a row in the Championship.
“All the lads who came in put a right good shift in,” he said. “Just unfortunately the result went against us.
“The penalty was a killer. We had a few chances to win it in the second half but it is the story of our season and we have only got ourselves to blame.
“We have to keep working hard. Hopefully our luck and results will change. We had a good little run around Christmas. We got a few wins on the trot against Leicester, Southampton and Barnsley but it is obviously not been enough.”