Simon Grayson admits there was almost an inevitability that Preston North End midfielder Ben Pearson would have to serve a two-match ban sooner rather than later.
Pearson collected his 10th yellow card of the season in the Lilywhites’ goalless draw against Derby County at Pride Park on Tuesday night, the caution triggering the suspension.
Nine of those bookings came in Barnsley colours during his four-month loan stay at Oakwell in the first-half of the campaign.
Pearson had been walking the disciplinary tightrope since the middle of December when he got his ninth yellow.
He kept his nose clean for six games – the last three at Barnsley and first three for North End – before falling on the wrong side of referee Oliver Langford at Derby.
The book came out for a robust 77th minute challenge on Rams substitute Abdoul Camara.
Home midfielder George Thorne reacted to Pearson and also got a yellow card.
North End manager Grayson said: “We knew that a suspension could come with Ben being on nine bookings.
“The referee got the decision wrong in the first place because it was a foul on Joe Garner to start with and things then spilled over.
“Ben made a crunching tackle and got the yellow card as a result.
“We lose him now for two games but we have got Alan Browne and John Welsh.
“Welshy was left out of the squad at Derby through no fault of his own – it was just what we had available and what we decided to go with.
“We picked a team to go and do a job on Derby and I’m sure it will be a different team at the weekend.”
Garner is another Preston player having to watch his step, the striker on nine bookings.
The ban for Pearson was the one blot on the Derby game.
Grayson was pleased with how his side’s system had held Derby at bay – the hosts’ squad built with a budget which exceeds most others in the Championship.
The lengthy break between games had helped Preston’s preparations, Grayson using that time to good effect at the Springfields training ground.
He said: “I thought long and hard about the way we would play at Derby, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of them.
“Given we had a good amount of time on the training ground, we were able to do a lot more work than we had done on other systems.
“We didn’t mind Derby having the ball at the back but once it went into midfield, you saw us press and sometimes counter-attack.
“For all the possession which they had, a lot of it was across the back and didn’t hurt us at all.
“Anders Lindegaard didn’t have a shot to save and going to Derby, you would have expected your goalkeeper to have had more to do.”
The system used by Grayson included using Adam Reach in a role off Garner up front.
His more central position was not a new one for the on-loan Middlesbrough man.
Said Grayson: “Adam has played it before a few times at other clubs – he did when on loan at Bradford a couple of seasons ago.
“Callum Robinson could have gone in there too but we knew Reachy would give us both sides – the defensive side but also the link-up with Joe.
“Having him there helped out with keeping an eye on George Thorne at the base of their midfield.
“Going forward, he got into pockets of space and helped us link the play, Adam got us up the pitch well.”