PHIL PARKINSON was delighted with how well Eoghan O’Connell performed in the run-in as the defender kept Ben Tozer out of the side and helped Wrexham clinch promotion.

Club captain Tozer was a regular starter after arriving at The Racecourse from Cheltenham Town in August 2021 for an undisclosed fee but he was replaced by O’Connell as the middle centre-back for the 2-1 win at Sutton United on February 13 and never regained his place.

O’Connell started the final 17 games and the Reds secured runners-up spot in League Two, making it back-to-back promotions for the first time in the club’s history.

Parkinson is eager to strengthen his squad for Wrexham’s return to League One and nine players, including Tozer, have been released to make room for new signings.

With Aaron Hayden and Jordan Tunnicliffe also leaving the club, centre-backs are likely to be on the shopping list but the Reds’ boss knows he was a quality defender in the shape of O’Connell who joined Wrexham from Charlton Athletic in the 2023 January transfer window.

“Eoghan certainly hasn’t gone under the radar from my point of view,” said Parkinson. “He has been excellent for us.

“He has defended well but he is also a good footballer and he starts a lot of attacks off for us.

“I am very pleased with him. It is a big position.

“In that role, as Ben has done for us over the years, Eoghan has the ball a lot and starts a lot of attacks off but also has the responsibility to organise as well.

“Both Ben and Eoghan fulfilled that role for us really well.”

Injuries disrupted O’Connell’s season but the 28-year-old didn’t look back after replacing Tozer in mid-February and he made 30 league appearances in total.

Clinching another promotion, on the back of the record-breaking 2022-23 campaign when Wrexham were crowned National league champions, made up for those spells on the sidelines.

“I had a really tough time with injuries before Christmas and into the start of the new year which I haven’t really had in the last few years,” said the Irishman,

“It was tough to get my head around and a lot of long days in the gym.

“But winning promotion made it all worth it and being part of such a special team.”

With Tozer being a mainstay of Wrexham’s defence - he never missed a single minute of any game when Wrexham clinched the National League title - O’Connell was previously used as the right or left-sided centre-back.

That changed when he took over from Tozer and O’Connell says he feels comfortable in the middle.

“I have played everywhere in the back three and back four in my career,” he added. “I played centrally in my last season at Rochdale so I have played there before.”