Dave Seddon’s PNE pressview: 10 matches is far too many for Ben Pearson to miss through suspension

Another ban for Ben Pearson and that means another column to analyse it.

Saturday, 2nd March 2019, 8:00 am
Nottingham Forest's Jack Colback is fouled by Preston North End's Ben Pearson

How many column inches have the Preston midfielder’s yellow and red cards taken up, how much time has been taken up debating it?

It was a topic Alex Neil spoke about in the aftermath of the last week’s 3-1 win at Millwall in which Pearson collected his 10th yellow card of the season.

The subject was re-visited this week in the build-up to Bristol City’s visit, the first of two games he will sit-out due to suspension.

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Win, lose or draw against the Robins, likewise next week at Blackburn, Pearson’s name will get a mention in one way or another.

The fact his discipline on the pitch attracts plenty of attention is down to how big a player he is to North End.

If he was a bit-player or something of a clogger, we would not be having such a conversation and this week’s ramblings from my laptop would cover another topic.

Pearson will have missed 10 matches through four bans by the time he returns to the squad for the March 13 visit to Middlesbrough.

Double figures missed in a 46-game league season is on the bulky side and far too many.

The 24-year-old’s first ban of the campaign came for his sending-off after the final whistle of September’s draw with Bolton Wanderers.

He got three games, that his first straight red card of his senior career.

In October, Pearson sat out the 1-1 draw at Hull City for accumulating five yellow cards.

Then in December, a red car at Sheffield Wednesday earned him four games on the sidelines.

Last Saturday at The Den, he kept his nose clean for 85 minutes before choosing to hack the ball away in protest of a free-kick not going the way of North End.

What a frustrating way for the latest ban to come about, how unnecessary.

I think all Preston fans would have felt a bit better with themselves had Pearo been booked for a mistimed tackle or a challenge when he took one for the team.

Mind you, it probably wouldn’t have been full-on Pearson had it been straight forward.

I’m of the conclusion that in Pearson, the Lilywhites possess one of the most talented midfielders they’ve had in many a year.

That just makes these absences the more harder to bear.

So what lies ahead for him and can North End change Pearson?

For starters, he is never going to get through a season without a suspension of some form or another.

Bookings for a holding midfielder in any team are an occupational hazard.

In Pearson’s case, the first steps are about reducing the number of bans – two in a season is manageable I would argue.

Cut out the daft yellows, like last week’s, and half of the battle is won.

Less lip too, and Pearson’s bookings will reduce.

His walk on the wild side of referees can detract from how good a footballer he is.

I’ll pick out three games from the current unbeaten run – Queens Park Rangers, Bolton and Millwall.

At QPR and Bolton I gave him the starman award, while he wasn’t far behind Paul Gallagher last week in the running.

The way he dictated play in all three games, building the tempo and playing the pass to get a move started, was impressive.

Under that mop of hair, beard and anger, Pearson is a footballer.

As I referenced earlier, he was one of the topics of the midweek press gathering to preview Bristol City’s visit.

A good few minutes of the chat with Alex Neil was spent on Pearson.

Neil couldn’t speak highly enough of his talent but was forced to admit he wanted to ‘throttle’ his midfielder when he strayed the wrong side of the discipline line.

The North End manager has said before that he sees aspects of himself as a player in Pearson.

Neil was a no-nonsense holding midfielder in the mould of Pearson, but just not as good – his words, not mine.

The question was asked of Neil as to whether giving the captain’s armband to Pearson might calm him down?

The reasoning behind that argument is that the skipper is the official route of communication with the referee, hence Pearson might get a bit more leeway with the officials.

Neil hinted it was a topic which had at least been talked about before being parked in the ‘no’ category.

He was to explain that the captaincy was something which had to be earned and the role was still one which he attached importance to.

Pearson himself isn’t keen on the idea anyway so it is a bit of a non-starter.

In Tom Clarke and Paul Gallagher, North End have had two senior players doing the skipper’s role very well.

Paul Huntington and Alan Browne too have worn the armband this season.

Moving on from Pearson’s card count, how pleasing it was to see a fourth away win on the bounce for North End at Millwall last week.

Watching PNE in my youth, there were times when they struggled to win four away games all season, let alone four on the spin.

Something has clicked for them on the road and their counter-attacking style suits picking teams off.

North End won 10 away games last season, five the year before and eight in the 2015/16 campaign.

So life on the road in the Championship seems to be something they are fairly comfortable with.

The supporters have backed the team well on the road this season, especially since the turn of the year.

More than 1,000 were at Millwall, with 1,272 making the trip to London in January for the QPR game.

There was a 2,000 plus following at Stoke and 4,500 for the Bolton trip.

Business has been brisk for next week’s derby clash at Blackburn, with sales for the top tier having started the other day.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see 7,500 North Enders at Ewood Park.