Garry Monk warned Leeds United’s players to avoid “stupid” yellow cards but said he did not want to see a drop in the intensity of their performances with three of his first-choice defenders close to suspension.
Right-back Luke Ayling and centre-back Kyle Bartley are one booking away from a two-match ban ahead of tomorrow’s fixture at Ipswich Town, and Sweden international Pontus Jansson will miss three games if he receives another three cautions before the end of the season.
Jansson, who has already served two bans since the start of the term, is carrying 12 while Ayling moved on to nine after his yellow card in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Bristol City. Bartley has also been on nine, one short of the Football Association’s threshold for a two-match suspension, since Leeds’ defeat at Huddersfield Town earlier this month.
A booking for Ayling or Bartley at Ipswich would rule them out of next weekend’s Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Wednesday.
The pair will avoid any sanction if they reach the second Sunday of March without incurring a 10th booking, but the FA’s standard punishment of a three-game suspension for 15 yellows – the threat currently hanging over Jansson – will be applied until the campaign finishes.
All three players have been regular choices in a highly consistent defence, with Bartley and Ayling starting all but one of United’s league fixtures, and they are set to start again in tomorrow’s game at Portman Road.
Untimely suspensions would be a threat to Leeds’ pursuit of a top-six finish in the Championship, but Monk said he would look for his players to prevent “needless” cautions, rather than actively seeking to evade yellow cards.
A number of Jansson’s bookings have come for dissent, leaving the pitch to celebrate a goal away at Norwich City and diving in a home win over Aston Villa.
“It’s not a situation you want but I don’t speak to the players particularly about it,” Monk said.
“A player’s there to deliver his best performance, whatever he needs to do. I never mention about not taking a yellow card because they’re only one away (from a ban) or anything like that. You perform how you need to perform and we deal with everything afterwards.
“With (Bartley and Ayling) there hasn’t really been anything behind their bookings other than them playing their game. The problem I have are when they’re silly yellow cards or needless yellow cards – when it’s dissent, kicking the ball away or something stupid. That’s when you get annoyed and it becomes difficult.
“But if it’s from a competing point of view, I’d never take that away from a player. They need that and it needs to be in their game. I don’t want them to think of anything else. If those situations come along then we have to deal with them. We’ll control what we can control.”
Monk is himself awaiting the outcome of disciplinary proceedings against him after being charged by the FA for his part in the touchline melee which broke out during Leeds’ recent visit to Huddersfield.
The 37-year-old is facing a possible touchline ban, his second of the season, but all misconduct charges relating to the game on February 5, including others against Huddersfield head coach David Wagner and both Yorkshire clubs, will be heard by an FA commission.
Monk said: “I’m waiting to set a date. I need to speak to them and I think Huddersfield will need to speak to them as well. We’re just waiting for those two things to come together.”