Injured defender targeted for Bristol City return.Defender James O’Connor has made his first tentative steps towards a first-team return after resuming full training last week.
The former Doncaster Rovers defender has been sidelined since February, when he suffered a knee ligament injury during a routine training session.
The timing of the 28-year-old’s injury only compounded the Rams’ misery in the treatment room, as John Brayford (hamstring), Kieron Freeman (ankle), Mark O’Brien (knee), Shaun Barker (knee) and Jake Buxton (knee), were all unavailable for selection.
However, O’Connor’s battle to shake off the injury looks to be drawing to a close, and Rams boss Nigel Clough admits he is enthused about the utility defender’s imminent return.
Clough said: “Jimmy joined in the warm-up at Moor Farm on Friday ahead of the Leicester game, so he is edging closer to coming back into contention.
“We were hoping to play him in the Under 21s at Barnsley on Monday but he wasn’t able to make that.
“Knee ligament injuries are niggling injuries and can allow you to do 90 per cent of a players’ workload, but they cause a lot of discomfort.
“Hopefully he will get a full week of training in this week, and then be available for the Bristol City game - that is the target.
“Jimmy’s versatility would have come in useful over the last month or so, given the problems we’ve had defensively.
“It’s ironic he had been waiting patiently on the bench for a chance for around six weeks since the turn of the year, but he was the first one to pick up an injury during the run of defensive problems we’ve had.
“It has been frustrating for Jimmy and ourselves, but that’s the way it goes in football sometimes.”
O'Connor joined the Rams for an undisclosed fee, signing a two-year contract in August last year.
He made his debut at Pride Park in a 2–2 draw with Sheffield Wednesday on the opening day of the 2012/13 campaign, and made his last appearance for the side during the Rams' FA Cup defeat to Blackburn Rovers in January.