Harrogate Railway treating play-off semi-final clash with Brigg Town as 'just another 90 minutes'
Victory would leave the Starbeck club, who finished the 2021/22 regular season in fourth place, just one more win away from promotion back to the Premier Division following a three-year absence.
And although he accepts that this weekend’s clash is the “biggest” match of his managerial career to date, the Irishman insists that neither he nor his players can afford to get caught up in the occasion.
“We have told the lads that Saturday is just another game, just another 90 minutes and that is how we have to approach it,” O’Connell said.
“Yes, it probably is the biggest game of my career as a manager, and it’s a big one for the club, but we’re trying not to think about it like that.
“I’m looking forward to it because this kind of fixture is what we are all in football for and we need to try and enjoy the occasion, however it’s not a day out.
“We have to go there and be ourselves and do what we need to do to come away with a result.”
Brigg finished the campaign just one place and three points ahead of Railway in the table but the men from Station View have beaten Saturday’s hosts home and away this term.
Their most recent win over the Zebras came in North Lincolnshire just last month, though O’Connell isn’t reading too much into that 2-0 success.
“We’ll go there with a positive mindset and full of confidence because we’ve been playing well and have finished the season strongly, but personally I think that the fact we have beaten Brigg twice already is irrelevant,” he added.
“In a play-off game, pretty much anything can happen, so although that last result there will mean that the lads know they can go to their place and win, we won’t get carried away with it.
“They’ve brought in a centre-half since then and had Josh Batty missing through suspension last time we played them, but otherwise I think that was their strongest team that we played in March.
“So we know plenty about them, we know how they play and what their strengths are and it is up to us to nullify them .”
Asked how Railway go about making it three victories on the bounce against Brigg, O’Connell replied: “We’ll go there with a game-plan. We have to be patient, we can’t be gung-ho and try and win the game in the first 10 minutes.
“We’ll also have to make sure we keep the ball and control periods while denying them the space they need to play in. A team that scores as many goals as they do can definitely hurt you if you don’t do that.”
Railway have a fully-fit squad to choose from for Saturday's contest, which gets underway at 3pm.