New challenge that Elliott Ward needs to tackle
AUDIO: Elliott Ward says a change of playing style helped contribute to the first suspension of his career.
The City centre-half missed Tuesday's home defeat by Crystal Palace after accumulating five yellow cards, the result, he says, of tackling more.
'It's been a long time coming,' said the summer signing. 'It's a shame that it has happened so quickly in the season. I think a few of the bookings were not warranted, but that's the way it goes. I've got it out of the way now and hopefully will crack on and it won't happen again this season.'
It's unusual for a centre-half with nearly 200 appearances to his name to go so long without falling foul of the disciplinary laws, but Ward says there is good reason.
'I think you have seen a few more tackles from me this season than I normally do,' he said. 'That's probably why it hasn't happened before, but I joked with someone before that I don't usually tackle, but I have since I joined here. So it is a bit of a change in my game, but that is something I have had to do to become a better player and become more aggressive.'
If there's an incentive to keep on the right side of the law then it was the knowledge that watching from the stands, especially a defeat, is not a pleasant experience.
'I don't like missing games at all. It was frustrating, especially when it was a good game for us to go and win. Unfortunately that didn't go right and we look to Saturday and make sure we don't lose two in a row.'
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Ward's absence was noticeable – but he had sympathy for his replacement Jens Berthel Askou as well as left back Steve Smith, in for Adam Drury.
'It was practically a new back four,' he said. 'When you're not playing you can keep your fitness but your timing and sharpness is something you probably lack a little bit and that does come with games. It must have been a little strange for the lads and maybe difficult at times to get the reading of each other, but hopefully we can get back to basics on Saturday.
'I think once you have an unchanged back four if that stays the same for the rest of the season, if there are changes around the pitch it shouldn't really affect the team as much as the back four. Hopefully I won't get suspended any time soon and the back four is the same for a while, because we have done alright and the team has done well.
'It's unfortunate to lose a game, especially the ones we think we should win. Saturday is a big game – but I think it is bigger for Boro because they are see to be a big club struggling.
'We want to get back to a clean sheet. We got it at QPR and I think that was well deserved and we want to keep getting clean sheets and get back to winning ways.'