CHRIS Morgan is becoming a marked man with referees, Sheffield United manager Kevin Blackwell has warned.
The former Barnsley centre-half became the most sent-off player in the club's history when he was dismissed midway through Saturday's 2-0 victory over Hull City and is now expected to miss the final two games of the season.
Morgan's absence will force Blackwell to break-up a rearguard he believes had evolved into the most formidable defensive unit in the Championship with veteran Ugo Ehiogu likely to start this weekend's crucial visit of Bristol City.
United must beat Gary Johnson's promotion chasers to stand any chance of securing a top six finish themselves but in a remarkable show of support for his beleaguered captain Blackwell told The Star: "I think there are times when Morgs' reputation goes before him.
"But I don't want him to change at all. What you see is what you get with Morgs and that will do for me.
"I want teams to fear coming to Bramall Lane and when people see his name on the team sheet they know they are going to be in for a really tough time.
"Forwards hate playing against him and he's one of the most respected defenders in the division.
"So no, I'm not going to ask him to do anything different at all."
Referee Phil Dowd awarded Morgan his sixth red card in United colours for a foul on Hull striker Fraizer Campbell and Blackwell insisted: "If you look at the challenge again there really wasn't anything in it.
"The lad (Campbell) carried on running and then the play was dragged back."
However, Morgan's loss has been tempered by the possible return of Derek Geary from injury.
The full-back watched from the stands as Stephen Quinn and James Beattie scored the goals which kept lingering hopes of play-off qualification alive.
Blackwell heaped praise on Quinn's shoulders, describing his second-half volley as "technique of the highest order."
The young midfielder received an injection last night to cure a back problem.
What do you think? Post your comments below.
Why politics will always be in the sporting mix: TALKING SPORT WITH JAMES SHIELD
More Ice Hockey.
All sport categories.