The red card for Ben Pearson at Sheffield Wednesday last week sparked a big debate and divided opinion between the Preston North End faithful.
Whatever side of the fence you sit, what cannot be disputed is that Pearson sitting in the stand for four games over Christmas and into the New Year is neither use nor ornament.
By the time the midfielder is eligible to return to action in the January 12 clash with Swansea, he will have missed eight matches through suspension this term.
That is too many and the stats are there that he is too valuable a player to be missing for any length of time.
Last season when Pearson was missing through suspension or injury – he sat out four games through bans – PNE managed quite well without him.
But it’s been a different kettle of fish to date in 2018/19.
North End lost all three of the games Pearson missed through the three-game ban for his red card after the final whistle against Bolton in September.
They drew at Hull in October, a game he missed after reaching the five yellow card mark.
Without him for more than an hour at Hillsborough, North End went down to a 1-0 defeat.
Then they were beaten 2-1 by Hull at Deepdale on Boxing Day.
No Pearo, no party, is the phrase to apply at this celebratory time of the year.
Preston still have to get through the games with Aston Villa, Rotherham and Doncaster without him, that a long stretch with the squad already on its bare backside in terms of numbers.
The club and midfielder felt aggrieved enough with Pearson’s red card against Wednesday to take it to appeal.
Maybe their chances of getting the sending-off overturned were slim but interestingly there was no extra punishment imposed for a frivolous appeal.
Pearson took his early bath for a challenge on Marco Matias.
The initial tackle was with his right foot and Pearson won the ball from the Wednesday man.
However, referee David Coote took a dim view of how Pearson’s left foot caught Matias on the follow-through.
Naturally there is momentum when making such a challenge and that would no doubt have formed the main thrust – no pun intended – of the appeal.
What probably proved to be the undoing of the appeal was the height of the follow-through on Matias.
Had Pearson’s left foot stayed lower, he could well have had a strong case.
With a sliding tackle there will naturally be a follow-through of kind with the trailing leg.
If a tackle is two-footed from the start – both launched at the ball at the same time – it’s red all day along, no arguing.
How the trailing leg is used is something of a grey area.
It has to go somewhere at some stage of the tackle otherwise the tackling player is going to hurt himself.
Post-match last week, Alex Neil suggested the reputation of Pearson had gone before him.
Would it have been a red card, he asked, had Paul Gallagher or Daniel Johnson made the tackle?
It’s hypothetical of course but maybe Neil had a point.
If Pearson is under some closer scrutiny, that is something he will have to handle and adapt his game to.
He is capable of reigning things in, keeping a cooler head.
Look at him in the second-half of last season when he was only a caution or two from reaching the 15-bookings mark.
Pearson went something like 10 games with only one yellow and got beyond the amnesty mark.
He added a bit of restraint to his game, let players past him in areas of the pitch where they weren’t going to do any harm rather than make an unncessary tackle.
In the centre of midfield you are going to get yellow cards, it is an occupational hazard of the job as an enforcer.
The trick is cutting down on the unnecessary ones.
Whether Pearson had to make last week’s tackle in the first place is open to debate.
It happened close to the edge of the centre-circle, with no threat of immediate danger.
Now it is up to others to cover Pearson’s absence.
Ryan Ledson did an admirable job when joining the action as a half-time substitute against Hull.
North End went to a 4-1-4-1, Ledson given the job of getting on the ball in front of the defence.
It suited him, his passing game much improved on what we had seen from him to date.
In Alan Browne, Gallagher and Johnson, PNE have the bodies and quality to play in and around Ledson.
Talking of Browne, how much does he like Deepdale?
Eight goals and three assists at the home of football this season is some going.
If he could add more figures to those statistics against Villa, then happy days.
A goal or two from Browne on North End’s travels would then be nice as we hit 2019.