STRIKER Aaron O’Connor admits it will be a ‘bonus’ if he returns to action for Newport County AFC this season.
The 30-year-old has not kicked a ball in a competitive match since his right foot rocket into the top corner sealed the Exiles’ 2-0 win over Wrexham in the Conference play-off final at Wembley last May.
O’Connor, the club’s top scorer last season, has so far missed all of County’s first campaign back in the Football League with a groin injury.
He underwent a hernia operation last month and is working his way back to fitness but he doesn’t want to set a return date yet.
“I’ve been close for a while; it’s just a case of the final stages being the hardest ones,” he said.
“Being healed and being fit to play is two different things.
“I’ve been healed for a while but I’m still not ready to participate in a game.
“Anything I play this season will be a bonus,” he added. “The way I feel, I should be able to play at some point this season but it’s not guaranteed.
“And it’s been that long now that there’s no point in forcing it.
“I need to do everything right over the summer and make sure I come back firing for next season.
“I’ve been given a programme that I need to do over the summer so I’ll be ticking over with that and trying to get back to how I was as quickly as possible.
“Hopefully this season’s injury won’t affect me and I’ll be able to play a big part next year.”
O’Connor, who is contracted until June 2015, has found it hard to watch his teammates struggling over recent months but he believes the season has been a success.
“I’ve never really been injured for more than two or three weeks before so it’s hit me all at once,” he said.
“I’ve watched a lot of the games and I know I could have helped the team out. That’s the most frustrating thing.
“We’ve been dropping off the play-offs over the last couple of months and I like to think I could have made a difference and kept us in the pack.
“But we’re still in a good position and, in my eyes, we’ve overachieved.
“The priority was to stay in this league and I think we’ve shown that we’re more than capable of competing.”
And O’Connor has backed his fellow strikers to end the League Two campaign on a high.
“The boys that have played and the ones that the gaffer has signed have all given 100 per cent,” he said. “I know the strikers haven’t been firing on all cylinders but the goals will come.”