Leeds United: Yellow peril for Connolly INTERVIEW

Whole-hearted full-back Paul Connolly admits his yellow peril is giving him reason to wince – although he insists the last thing he can be labelled is a dirty player.

The Leeds United right-back, a beacon of consistency over the past few months, is treading a suspension tightrope, with the 27-year-old one more booking away from a potentially costly two-match ban after receiving his ninth caution of the campaign in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Portsmouth at a raucous Fratton Park.

Walking on the equivalent of egg shells when he crosses the white line is something he could do without, but don't expect his committed and tenacious approach to waver in the coming weeks.

The Scouser had to watch his step for most of Saturday's game following his caution early on for a challenge on Pompey's first goalscorer Joel Ward after only 16 minutes of the clash on the south coast and avoided attracting the referee's ire for the rest of the game – despite feeling hard done by at the award of the yellow card.

It's something he must replicate in the coming weeks, with the defender mindful that the spectre of a two-match ban coming up to the business end of the campaign could jettison him out of the side at the most untimely of junctures.

And if that happens, he is adamant there would be no-one else to blame, but himself.

Connolly, dismissed four times in a career which started out at

Plymouth Argyle around a decade ago said: "I'm on nine (bookings) and a 10th booking is something I want to avoid.

"I'm really disappointed to have so many and I'm sure my tackle (against Portsmouth) looked worse that it was. I didn't get the ball, but I didn't touch him either. He's literally jumped over me and gone down, but the crowd went up and they were shouting for a yellow card and referee gave me one.

"But it's something I need to address because being close to 10 yellows at this stage of the season isn't good enough. I haven't got 10 bookings yet, but as and when I do, it's a two-game ban. That's a problem for the manager because it takes a player out of his squad, and personally I might find that if the team carry on picking up points then I might lose my place in the side. If that does happen, it's my own fault.

"I'm not a dirty player and it's a bit strange that I've got so many. I don't think I've been any more aggressive than anyone else. Maybe the left wingers are better than the right wingers in this league! But I was on four after about seven games and that's not a great position to be in as a full-back.

"But there's no way I'm going into a game thinking 'if I get one more booking then I'm getting banned'. I need to be really professional with my tackling, but I'm not going to pull out of challenges or anything like that. If it happens, it happens, but it's not a situation I wanted to be in."

Last Wednesday's exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Premiership big guns Arsenal in front of a jam-packed Elland Road audience may have represented a disappointment to Whites supporters, but when the dust had settled on their third-round replay defeat, one positive began to surface.

Namely that United have at least been afforded some brief respite from their congested recent itinerary, with Saturday's long trip to Pompey representing their eighth game in just under four weeks – since kicking off their breakneck schedule at Leicester City on Boxing Day.

Business resumes at Hull City's KC Stadium a week tonight, in a demanding Yorkshire derby against the Tigers, while long and exacting trips to Bristol City and Swansea City respectively also lie in wait in a busy six-match February, which also features a White Rose tussle with Barnsley and big home encounter with play-off rivals Norwich City at Elland Road.

Connolly is one of five outfield players to have started all United's last eight games since Boxing Day – with the midfield trio of Jonathan Howson, Bradley Johnson and Robert Snodgrass and livewire Ivorian wingman Max Gradel being the others, not to mention keeper Kasper Schmeichel.

It's safe to say all those aforementioned, along with their team-mates have deserved a few days of rest and recuperation in the early part of this week as United recharge their batteries – and both weary minds and aching limbs – for the assignments ahead.

On having a short hiatus before the clash with Hull in East Yorkshire, always a spicy affair, Connolly added: "It's a great time for a little break. The gaffer's given us a couple of days off and it's the perfect opportunity to chill out and recharge. Then we'll go back to work at Thorp Arch.

"You need a break every now and again, and the Christmas period's been hard. The games have been pretty relentless and because we've been doing well, the gaffer hasn't really left people out.

"It's hard to change the team when you're in form and footballers would

rather be playing anyway.

"You like to recover when you've got a break between games, but you don't really want to be given a rest when you're supposed to be

playing.

"Personally, I'm happiest when I'm training and playing all the time, but I have to admit that it's nice to have a couple of days off. It's important to take care of your body and mind, and we should all be

absolutely right for Hull."

Thomas Christiansen

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