IT WAS a year ago this weekend that City scored their first goal of the season from a defender.

Anthony O’Connor’s volley against Sunderland at Valley Parade opened a personal account that would see the centre half finish with six.

The back four contributed 14 in all – but only three of those came after New Year’s Day.

It was a slump in output that fell in line with the declining performances that ended in inevitable relegation.

Gary Bowyer highlighted that as one of the areas which needed to step up – he demanded more goals from around the pitch and not just relying on the front men.

And that call has so far been answered by Paudie O’Connor, who is well on the way to matching his namesake’s contribution from before.

The young Irishman’s close-range equaliser at Scunthorpe last week was his third already in all competitions, making him City’s unlikely joint top scorer with James Vaughan and one ahead of Clayton Donaldson.

Kelvin Mellor and Ben Richards-Everton have also been on the scoresheet recently as the defenders react to Bowyer’s call for more goals from the back.

O’Connor said: “The gaffer spoke to us at the start of the season and said that we had to try to help Vaughany and Clayts out with a few goals.

“Maybe that was missing a bit last season and it is important for the team.

“We’ve stepped up in the last few weeks. I’ve got a couple and Kelv and Ben have both scored.

“Woody (Connor Wood) is providing a lot of crosses into the box and assists, so it’s been positive for us.

“I’m not looking at trying to reach a certain number. I’m just taking it game-by-game.

“Our main objective as defenders is obviously to keep the ball out of our own net and hopefully we can keep some more clean sheets in the next few weeks.

“But it’s always nice to get one at the other end, especially when it’s in front of our fans. They have been class the last couple of weeks and you can’t fault them.”

City’s two O’Connors are currently reunited at the heart of the back four as Ben Richards-Everton sits out his ban for that head-loss moment against Carlisle.

The pair looked solid against a Scunthorpe side hell-bent on protecting what they had got after going down to 10 men themselves.

This weekend’s challenge against Swindon could be a stiffer one.

“I felt it went perfectly last week,” added O’Connor. “Ant and I played quite a few games together last season so we complement each other quite well and understand each other’s game.

“I don’t think we were any worse off for not having Ben available.

“Ant is an experienced pro, he’s probably played 350 games at quite a high level. He’s never going to look out of place and I thought he was very good against Scunthorpe.

“Swindon have been doing quite well so we won’t underestimate them. But we expect to get three points whenever we play at Valley Parade.

“And thankfully we won’t have Eoin Doyle to worry about.”

With Vaughan and Matty Palmer also missing, Bowyer has been forced into reshuffling his team. The clearer schedule without any midweek action has been timely to bed in the changes.

O’Connor said: “I don’t think we’ve had a full week to prepare as a squad for some time. You’ve always had one team preparing for a Tuesday game and other lads doing a different schedule.

“It’s been a bit stop-start and probably not ideal for a manager. But we’ve had the full week now to run into Swindon so we’ve been able to get a lot done on the training pitch.”