BURTON Albion are poised to keep Anthony O’Connor until the end of the season —but they will almost certainly be without the full-back when they attempt to cause an FA Cup upset on Saturday.
Brewers boss Gary Rowett is close to finalising a deal with Blackburn Rovers which will see the 20-year-old Irishman remain on loan at the Pirelli Stadium.
O’Connor is expected to miss Saturday’s third round tie against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium after suffering a hamstring injury in the New Year’s Day defeat at York City.
But Rowett is delighted Blackburn have agreed to allow the highly-rated prospect to continue his football education with the Brewers.
He said: “It’s a brilliant piece of news because Anthony has done really well for us from day one.
“His defensive qualities are there to be seen and what has pleased me in recent games is that he has started to show more of an attacking intent.
“But what I just love about him is his attitude — he’s as tough as old boots and very rarely lets anyone get the better of him.
“He’s dealt with the bumps and bruises of League Two football extremely well and he’s settled into being the type of footballer who has a really good career ahead of him.
“Anthony has been one of the mainstays in the team over the first half of the season. “Playing senior football is obviously a huge factor in his development from Blackburn’s point of view and we’re close to finalising a deal to keep him with us until the end of the season.”
O’Connor has played in all but two of Albion’s 33 league and cup games this season.
His injury coincides with Rowett’s decision to allow Andy Corbett to go out on loan for a month to Conference side Hereford United.
The Brewers boss said: “It’s unfortunate timing in a sense because Corbs has waited patiently for his chance and now he’s on loan.
“But I thought it was important for him to get some games and then come back stronger for the remainder of the season.
“He wasn’t one of those I was desperate to get out on loan but, because of his honesty and his service to the club, I thought it was only right to give him the opportunity to go and play some football.”
Nathan Stanton, who missed the York game through suspension, is favourite to deputise in the right-back slot if O’Connor misses out at Leicester - assuming skipper Zander Diamond recovers from a sickness bug.
Rowett said: “We’re hoping Zander will be better by the weekend which will free up Stanno.
“Zander reported to the ground for the trip to York but the physio took one look at him and decided he wasn’t well enough to make the trip.”
Diamond’s influence was missed as Albion crumbled to a 3-0 defeat and dropped out of the play-off places after a display that was a pale show of their efforts in beating Rochdale and Southend United in their Christmas home games.
The Brewers boss said: “The fact that Zander was ill disrupted our performance a little bit, but that’s the way it is.
“Bu the frustrating thing for me was just the way we started. It wasn’t the intensity and urgency that we’ve showed in the past two home games, so from that point of view it was disappointing.
“Sometimes away from home we’ve got this mentality where we don’t do the things we do at home.
“We can’t keep going away from home and losing because that’s three goals we’ve let in again, but at the same time they’re an honest group and they’ve not done that on purpose.”