AIDEN O’Brien wasn’t worried about his recent goal drought – and insisted he is still on course to hit double figures for the third consecutive season.
O’Brien has scored three times in his last two games after going 18 fixtures without a goal since his September winner against this weekend’s opponents, Leeds.
O’Brien, 24, got back in the scoring groove with a double against Barnsley before his opener in the 1-1 draw against Preston last Saturday.
Despite some clamour from fans to play him up front, O’Brien feels he has excelled from the left of midfield, and credited his manager Neil Harris for putting him in that position.
O’Brien has scored 33 goals in the last three seasons, most of them from out wide.
“It’s always good to score goals, that’s my game. I wanted to start scoring again, it was a small drought but I was never worried, I knew I was going to start hitting the back of the net sooner rather than later,” O’Brien said.
“Hopefully they keep coming. I felt we could have taken all three points last weekend but it ended up to be a good draw against a good team.
“I always sense where the ball is going to drop mostly before the full-backs, I’m coming from behind them so they rarely see me, that’s how I get a lot of my goals. Credit to the gaffer for putting me on the wing a couple of years ago now. It’s done me well.
“I see myself as a goal scorer, whether from the wing, up front or in behind the striker. I’m naturally a goal scorer. I find it easier at the moment playing on the left side because there are balls coming in off the right or there is a ricochet and I’m there to sniff it out. It’s worked for me and hopefully they will keep leading to results and pushing us up the table away from that relegation zone.”
O’Brien is renowned for some passionate celebrations of his goals – like when he threw off his shirt and embraced fans after his injury-time winner at Bury last season – but barely reacted after his second against Barnsley.
He explained: “Sometimes I quietly embrace the goal and think to myself, ‘yeah, that was nice’. Sometimes I run off and do a little dance. It depends on the feeling on the day, really.
“The last three goals have definitely come at the right time, in January, and hopefully I can keep them coming.
“I want double figures, every season I go into I want double figures. There is more than enough time left for me to achieve that. It’s doable, and it’s just about me getting myself right and mentally preparing, physically preparing.
“If it doesn’t come and we stay up, that’s a bonus for me. I’d rather we stay up than I score 20 goals and we go down.
“But on a personal note double figures would be perfect.
“The main thing is to focus on the league. If the goals come for me then great, but we need to worry about getting away from the bottom three, to get to that safe point so we can chill out a little bit.”
Saturday is yet another chance for the Lions to get that first away win this season, at the 14th time of asking.
“We’ve gone to massive teams, like Aston Villa, and we have absolutely dominated the game,” O’Brien said. “We should definitely have come away with three points from some of them, but it wasn’t to be and we can’t dwell on that.
“We’ve got to go away to Leeds, which is a massive game, one of the biggest of the season for the fans and the club, and do what we do best and hopefully come away with those three points.”
Elland Road is set to be a cauldron of noise this weekend, with more than 30,000 fans expected.
O’Brien said: “This is my job, I don’t really get nervous. Some people probably do but I embrace it. I look at it and think, ‘wow, this is a massive stadium, all these fans have come to see us, let’s perform to the best we can’. That gets me going. I can’t wait to get out there.
“There’s going to be 30,000 people there, but we’ve got to forget about the recent away losses. We’re playing so well but just not getting the breaks and picking up the points. Hopefully this Saturday we can.”
Millwall have been hit by several poor decisions from officials away from home that have denied them more points, and Lee Gregory was again on the end of a wrong call that denied them a second goal against Preston.
“That’s really embarrassing, that decision,” O’Brien said. “I watched it back with Gregory after the game, he was miles onside. The officials have got to look at that and admit they’ve made a massive mistake. It should have been another goal for Lee, and more importantly another goal which makes it 2-0 and that game is dead and buried, we take the three points, see you later.
“It’s a tricky one for them but they’ve made the wrong decision and it cost us three points.”
O’Brien has another reason to want to keep up his scoring run, with potentially a first cap for the Republic of Ireland in the offing this year.
He was called up by Martin O’Neill late in 2017, and has been keeping an eye on developments after the Irish boss was linked with the Stoke City job before turning it down.
O’Brien said: “I keep track of it because it’s my job to at the moment, I’m involved a little bit. He’s the one who brought me in and showed faith in me. I need to keep track of it but at the same time leave it in the back of my mind because I’ve got things to sort out here: worrying about my game and performing, and making sure I’m 100 per cent focussed on what I do.
“It’s somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m aware of it but at the moment I’m only focused on Millwall and doing my job here.”
O’Brien is also confident he could be joined by another Lions team-mate in the Ireland set-up, after Shaun Williams told the Irish Sun last week he still harboured hopes of a first-ever call-up.
“I’ve said it from day one, how Shaun Williams hasn’t been called up yet is beyond me, given what he does on the ball and off the ball,” O’Brien said.
“He is a maestro in possession and not many can manoeuvre the ball like he can. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a cap for Ireland because he’s definitely one that deserves international recognition.”
Image: Millwall FC