IN-FORM Billy Jones is walking a disciplinary tightrope as Rotherham United seek to consolidate their position in the League One play-off places.
Paul Warne's side head to MK Dons this weekend with their experienced full-back on four yellow cards, only one away from incurring a one-match ban.
Jones must navigate the next three league outings without a caution if he is to escape a suspension, but his manager, whose team have moved up to sixth spot, won't be asking him to change his ways.
"A full-back has to tackle," Warne said. "It's crazy these days. You can pick up a yellow card for nothing.
"I can't tell him not to play to the edge because the best players play to the edge. If he was getting yellows for throwing the ball away and things like that I'd have an issue with him but he's getting them for tackles.
"I'll tell him to play his normal game and we'll take the consequences. It's very unlikely that Billy is going to get to the safety zone without getting a suspension. It's going to happen sooner or later. There's no point worrying about it."
Thirty-two-year-old Jones, who played in the Premier League with Sunderland, has impressed on the left flank for the Millers after moving over from the right to deputise for injured Joe Mattock.
Mattock has been out for three weeks with a back problem and will sit out the MK trip and, probably, Tuesday's visit to Portsmouth.
"He trained with the physios on the grass on Monday and Tuesday and seemed pretty positive," Warne said. "It's going to be next week before he joins in full training.
"A certain movement still causes him pain. We've tried to strengthen him but that movement is still leading to discomfort."
After a change to the rules, yellow cards are now competition specific so the caution Jones was given in the FA Cup earlier this month doesn't count towards league tally. The League One cut-off point for a ban for five yellows comes after 19 games.
Rotherham travel to a 21st-placed Dons side who have lost their last six fixtures and appointed a new boss, Russell Martin, three matches ago.
"There has been a changing of the guard. They have a new manager. I think it's their first home league game since he took charge," Warne said.
"We've watched their previous two games and they played well. Playing under a new boss will definitely give their players more motivation. It shouldn't, but that's the way it is.
"If we play as well as we can we should give them a right game. Our away form has been pretty good. Every game we play, home and away, we go into it trying to win.
"We'll go there believing we can win. But MK will believe they can win as well. It's a good pitch, which always helps. They'll try to play and will come at us. They will have a lot of the ball, no doubt, because they're a possession-based team.
"It's about how we can hurt them really."
MATT CROOKS TRAINING SCARE
TOP scorer Matt Crooks was pulled out of training this week in a bid to keep him fit and firing for Rotherham United.
The attacking midfielder has hit the target eight times this season despite suffering from soreness in his groin.
His goals have helped the Millers climb into the League One play-off zone and his manager doesn't want to lose a player who has struck seven times in his last eight appearances.
"Crooksy has got a groin problem. He dropped out of training on Tuesday," revealed boss Paul Warne who takes his side to MK Dons this Saturday. "It was precautionary. He was tightening up and getting a bit sore.
"He's training today (Thursday) so he should be okay for the weekend. It's a manageable problem. It's not an operation sort of thing.
"It's a tricky thing. He needs strapping and pain relief. It's going to be difficult with two games in quick succession (Portsmouth away on Tuesday night). He's getting better at managing it so we should be all right."
Striker Kyle Vassell has trained fully this week after recovering from a calf injury and is likely to be on the bench at Stadium MK while Rotherham are monitoring centre-half Clark Robertson who has just returned after a groin issue.
"Vass has been good," Warne said. "He's itching to be involved. He's been out for a bit now but he's trained really well. We just need to get a few more training days into him. He'll play a part sooner or later.
"We're a little but uncertain on Robbo. He also dropped out of training on Tuesday but we're hopeful he will be okay.”
The Millers are without injured central defender Richard Wood and winger Chiedozie Ogbene who is serving a one-match ban.