Holt forced to walk a disciplinary tightrope

Chris Lakey Grant Holt says he will be on his best behaviour over the next 16 games as he attempts to avoid the two yellow cards that will lead to another suspension - but he won't compromise the team by deliberately keeping out of harm's way.

Chris Lakey

Grant Holt says he will be on his best behaviour over the next 16 games as he attempts to avoid the two yellow cards that will lead to another suspension - but he won't compromise the team by deliberately keeping out of harm's way.

Holt returns to the starting line-up at Brighton this afternoon after a three-game ban - having already served a one-match suspension earlier in the season after accumulating five yellows.

The striker now has eight bookings to his name: two more and the FA will come down hard - just when City can ill afford to lose him.

But Holt believes his card is marked before he even steps foot on to the pitch, and says League One referees are too quick to flash cards for minor misdemeanours.

It's a case of keeping out of harm's way from now on.

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“I've got to,” admitted Holt. “It's frustrating. I spoke to the manager a little bit about it. I think if you look back, probably six of the yellow cards were very harsh, very nit-picky, doing persistent fouls, and I think sometimes the referees go out and it's one of them where I am going to go in the book before I start.

“I have seen me get yellow cards for nothing - like at Colchester I had maybe one foul and got a yellow card and their lad's kicked Chrissy Martin all over the park for an hour and he didn't get a booking.

“So it's frustrating, but I can't worry about it too much because I don't want to take anything away from my game. If yellow cards come I just have to deal with that and as a squad, which we have done, we will cope.

“But I will try my best - I've got 16 games and I will try not to get two yellow cards.”

Holt's style of play suggests it's not going to be easy.

“The style in which I play always gets me involved in the game, winning headers or battling and whatever,” he said.

“Some games it seems to be highlighted that I'm making fouls - I'm winning fouls a lot of the time - but the referees are a bit picky in this league.

“They are very quick to get the cards out without thinking and unfortunately I seem to be getting a lot of them.”

Holt's recent ban came after a straight red during the game against Brentford on January 23, when he lunged at midfielder Toumani Diagouraga.

Cody McDonald and Oli Johnson shared responsibilities alongside Chris Martin up front, but both are young and relatively inexperienced - ones for the future.

“The two lads who came in did fantastic,” said Holt. “Cody got a couple of goals and Oli came on and did well. But we all know they are different to myself, they are still learning.

“We have got two fantastic players there - maybe next year they will be ready to kick on and start playing, but at the moment maybe they're still learning and hopefully I will be back at Brighton and playing and hopefully I can bring back something different that we haven't had the last few weeks and start performing and getting the wins we know we need to get now.”

Holt was at Millwall last weekend for City's first defeat since mid-October, but missed the wins over Walsall and Hartlepool.

“Obviously it is never nice not to play and I am not a big fan of watching,” he said.

“That's why I went to Millwall last week but the other two games I tried to stay away.

“I am not a big supporter when the team is playing I don't enjoy watching. I just sit at home getting nervous.”

Holt's presence will be a boost for the whole team, but perhaps midfielder Wes Hoolahan will welcome it most, having been stifled in recent games by some close one-to-one marking.

“I spoke to Wes about it a little bit this week that when that does happen he has got to take up positions that he wouldn't normally do, which will free the rest of the lads to go up and get the ball,” said Holt.

“I think sometimes with Wes when he does get marked he does get frustrated and he drops a little bit too deep and it doesn't help the team him going deeper and deeper. I've told him to go higher and higher.”

Defeat at Millwall was a rare occurrence for City, but results elsewhere softened the impact, with Leeds and Swindon both held to draws.

“You have got to look past last weekend,” he said. “You have to look before that. We were on a good run and we got beaten at Leeds. The best teams get beaten.

“Look at Chelsea, they got beaten and I'm sure they will bounce with a good result.

“That's what you have got to do when you're at the top. It's consistency. If you get knocked down you come back, you bounce back with a win.

“Fortunately, for us last week we didn't lose that much ground. What we have got to do is look at the teams that are around us and whatever they do we have got to match it or better it and at the moment we are doing that and if we keep doing that in the position we are in, we will get promoted.

“We know it is going to be tough at Brighton but we know we have got a good enough side and a good enough squad to go there and win.”

Brighton's Withdean Stadium, complete with running track, will be very different from the noisy confines of the New Den - for players and City's travelling supporters.

“They have been fantastic,” said Holt. “Every week, it doesn't matter whether it's Hartlepool or it's Carlisle. This week it will be Brighton and they all know they'll be at a pitch where you need binoculars from the away end to see the goal.

“They will be great, they will fill it again. The support has been fantastic - obviously they have had some good performances away from home this season which always helps.

“The team is performing well and you kind of bounce off each other: when the team is doing well the fans do well and it gives you that added extra, and to be fair to them at the weekend, even though we were getting beaten I thought they were fantastic from start to finish and it can only help.

It drives you on and it's just unfortunate at the weekend we didn't send them home with a smile on their face.”