Doncaster Rovers: ‘They can leave their foot in a bit more now’ – Grant McCann on Whiteman, Kane and Butler escaping bans
When it comes to the metaphorical disciplinary tightrope, few have ever walked it for as long as a trio of Doncaster Rovers' most important players.
For months, Ben Whiteman, Herbie Kane and Andy Butler sat on nine yellow cards in the league, knowing one more would trigger a two match ban their team could ill afford.
Kane and Butler were last booked in League One on January 12. For combative midfielder Whiteman, his last league yellow card came on December 15 - 15 matches ago.
Whether spoken or not, the goal of all three was to get through the 37 game mark without picking up another booking.
And, even against neighbours and promotion rivals Barsley in that 37th game, they managed it.
All three refute any suggestions they have altered their games in order to avoid a yellow card. Anyone witnessing Butler bulldozing his way through to a header would attest to that.
But boss Grant McCann believes the ban hanging over the trio’s heads had a slight psychological effect.
“They’ve not really changed their game but maybe there were one or two little incidents where before they might have won the ball or took one for the team," he said.
“But I don't think it's really worried them too much.
“Probably as it comes towards the end you start worrying about it a bit more.”
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McCann is convinced it had begun to impinge on Whiteman's role as the side’s deeper lying midfielder.
It prompted the Rovers boss to speak with Whiteman prior to Friday night's clash with Barnsley to make sure he held nothing back in the vital match.
“I had a chat with Ben because I thought he was holding back a bit at Blackpool," McCann said.
"But against Barnsley, he was everywhere and back to the Ben we have seen all season really.
"He was not worried about getting a yellow card and Andy Butler and Herbie Kane were the same.
"Those three can relax and leave their foot in a bit more.
"It’s amazing really that we got them all through.”
One ban threat continues for the trio, though appears unlikely at this stage.
The penalty period for 15 yellow cards runs through to the end of the season with a three game suspension coming as a result.