Pearce forced to play it safe

Chris Lakey Alex Pearce will be treading carefully tonight as he steps into the shoes of Gary Doherty when Stoke City come to Carrow Road. The on-loan Reading defender is almost certain to partner Jason Shackell in the heart of City's defence, having seen Doherty, as well as midfielder Darel Russell, dismissed during the weekend defeat at Coventry.

Chris Lakey

Alex Pearce will be treading carefully tonight as he steps into the shoes of Gary Doherty when Stoke City come to Carrow Road.

The on-loan Reading defender is almost certain to partner Jason Shackell in the heart of City's defence, having seen Doherty, as well as midfielder Darel Russell, dismissed during the weekend defeat at Coventry.

And Pearce is wary of stepping over the line - and following his team-mates into the Carrow Road sin-bin.

"You have to be so careful in this day and age," admitted Pearce. "It seems to me you get sent off for no reason these days."

Pearce, a 21st-minute replacement for the struggling Juan Velasco at the Ricoh Arena, insists both players were unlucky victims of whistle-happy referee Paul Taylor.

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"To be honest they weren't really bad tackles, especially Doc's," he said. "I think Doc was very unlucky but neither were bad challenges.

"If you look back at the old days, look what they had to go through - they could basically do anything they wanted. Nowadays you can't even touch a player and it's a free-kick.

"You need to be careful - you can get sent off for anything."

Pearce, who had been dropped in favour of Shackell, says the team are united in righting a few wrongs tonight after the inquest into Saturday's defeat.

"There were a few home truths, but it's better to get it all out in the open and move forward," he said. "It was a disappointing result but hopefully we can move on from that and go forward."

Stoke are, physically, a very different proposition to Coventry, whose tormenter-in-chief was the 5ft 7in midfielder Jay Tabb, scorer of the only goal and the man who was instrumental in the two dismissals.

"You just have to stand up and be counted against teams like Stoke and Watford," said Pearce. "You have got to earn the right to play and in the first 20 minutes we know what we are going to get from them - in the whole game we know what we are going to get. They are a strong, direct team, they put loads of balls in your box and if you can't deal with it you are going to lose the game."

Football à la Watford and Stoke isn't to everyone's taste, but Pearce has no complaints.

"That's the way it is," he said. "There are no rules in the book that say you can't play like that. Every team has the right to play the way they want to play and it's been effective for both of those teams.

"We know we need to start well in every game we play and lately we haven't been starting too well, but I think we can put that right."