With a smaller squad last season both were involved with the first team, in fact O’Neill was first on the subs bench back in September for our first win of the season at Derby although on that occasion he wasn’t called on.
His first actual appearance was as a sub in that awful 7-4 defeat against Watford when he replaced Mark McGregor. He went on to make a further four substitute appearances before the end of the season along with two starts, against Gillingham and Fanchise, playing the full ninety minutes in the second of them.
He impressed and got better with each game as his confidence grew and as an added bonus we scored a few goals from his long throw ins including both in the 2-0 win over Gillingham and our last goal of the season, Gareth Taylor’s at Franchise.
Joel Pilkington, a terrier like midfielder, though was a little unfortunate. He took a place on the bench for the first time in that Watford defeat and was on the bench on a few occasions. In the game at Norwich he was alongside O’Neill and Richard Chaplow and all three are products of the same school Mount Carmel in Accrington.
It is just about certain that he would have had an opportunity to make his debut before the end of the season but injury prevented that and he was out for the last few games.
They are two players who have impressed at youth and reserve team level and both now have the opportunity to win themselves places in our first team squad.
Two of the other players to end their scholarships, goalkeeper James Salisbury and central defender Liam Eves have both been released and we can now
He is currently on holiday and is expected to sign it just as soon as he returns, now fully fit following the horror facial injury he picked up after a clash with a goalkeeper in a reserve game at the end of last season.
Well done to Matt, Joel and Damien – these deals are all well deserved.