Tom Clarke is relieved to be starting 2014 without the threat of suspension hanging over his ever-present run in the Preston North End side.
The defender has started every one of North End’s league games this season and will line up against Port Vale at Deepdale today (3pm).
But until last Sunday he was walking a disciplinary tightrope after being booked four times.
One more yellow card for Clarke would have triggered a one-match ban.
However, the FA’s amnesty on cautions kicked in yesterday and a suspension now only follows after 10 bookings.
Clarke had been watching his step since getting a fourth yellow card in the cup win over Wycombe on December 7.
He stayed on the right side of the rules against Crawley, Brentford, Carlisle and Shrewsbury.
“The manager spoke to me and said the amnesty came in after the Shrewsbury game,” Clarke told the Evening Post.
“I have had to be a bit careful in the last few games and fortunately I avoided any more bookings.
“This season I’ve started 27 games, so when you consider that as a defender I have only been booked four times, I don’t think that is too bad.
“A few of the other lads have reached five and missed a game as a result.”
Clarke’s centre-back partner Paul Huntington collected a fifth yellow at Shrewsbury and misses this afternoon’s game.
The absence of Huntington is likely to mean a return for Jack King in the back line after he rested at the weekend.
Last summer’s Bosman switch from Huddersfield to Preston has been a successful one for Clarke. He became an instant hero among the North End faithful when scoring the late winner against Blackpool in August’s Capital One Cup tie.
In making 28 appearances – one as a sub in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on top of his 27 starts – the Yorkshireman is making up for lost time, after being limited to just 15 minutes of football at Huddersfield in the whole of last season.
Said Clarke: “My main objective when I signed was to play in as many matches as I could for Preston.
“I have played in every game.
“I think I have done well and given it my best shot.
“What we need to do now is keep pushing on and picking up the good results.
“We have just come through two tough away games and won them both.
“They were tight games in which we defended well and got a goal at the other end.
“I think that we deserved to win both matches and it would be nice if we could win today in front of the home supporters.
“Port Vale will be difficult opponents – they are going well at the moment.
“It was only quite recently that we played them at their place, so the sides will know quite a bit about each other.”
l North End defender Shane Cansdell-Sherriff has extended his loan spell with Burton Albion until the end of the season.
With the Australian out of contract in the summer, it effectively brings to an end his time with the Lilywhites.
Meanwhile, North End will be able to officially register the transfer of Irish youngster Alan Browne now that the transfer window has opened.