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No red mist for Oliver Lancashire

Walsall | Sport | Published:

Walsall defender Oliver Lancashire is out to end his red card woe and prove he is not a feisty firebrand.

Walsall defender Oliver Lancashire is out to end his red card woe and prove he is not a feisty firebrand.

Critics can argue, with reason, four red cards in 45 senior appearances is excessive - especially when he collected his first just 30 minutes into his Southampton debut.

But the softly-spoken 21-year-old insists his collection of cards is down to bad luck and poor decisions.

A yellow on his Saddlers debut against Milton Keynes Dons last week brought a sharp intake of breath from those watching who knew his history.

Lancashire is primed for this third Walsall outing at Brentford tomorrow knowing his Southampton bow in 2008 ended in heartbreak just five miles away from Griffin Park at Queens Park Rangers.

The former St Mary's youngster knows he has got a bad reputation but insists he doesn't deserve the criticism.

He said: "I definitely wouldn't say I'm a dirty player, it's just the way it's gone.

"The first one was on my debut, live on Sky, I was buzzing and doing quite well up until that point.

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"I went into a tackle - which I still think was a yellow card to this day - but the referee gave a red.

"The one after that was Sheffield United away where I got Man of the Match. I was the last man and got sent off, but people who talk about the red card don't talk about the Man of the Match award which is quite annoying.

"The next one was handball on the line when I was at Grimsby - but I still think it hit my chest - and the last one got rescinded.

"Things didn't seem to be going for me last year, but this time I want to keep the cards away."

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Indeed, even though his two red cards for Southampton came in his first six appearances and he has only accrued five yellow cards in his senior outings.

His final dismissal was back in April while on loan at Grimsby, as the Mariners slipped out of the Football League.

Relegation on the final day of last term turned Lancashire's spell sour, but the defender credits his difficult season at Blundell Park for turning him into a better player.

He said: "It added another side to my game. Compared to playing reserve team football where nothing really matters I was suddenly involved in a relegation battle - going there I had to scrap.

"I didn't have to go there, but I chose to go instead of sitting in the reserves with Southampton. It was a big challenge, but it was good experience to get some games.

"It changed me last year, I wasn't playing at Southampton even though the season before I played 15 games in the Championship so to go to Grimsby, despite the relegation, was great. We lost a lot of games.

"We changed it a little bit towards the end and almost stayed up, but it was a good experience at such a young age."

Lancashire is ready to use his new-found resilience to the Saddlers' advantage.

The youngster sees himself as a cultured defender but knows, as he settles in to his new surroundings, there is a time and a place to find Row Z.

He said: "I would rather pass it but there's a time and a place to kick it out over the stand.

"During my whole career I've always been a ball playing centre half I'm more comfortable doing that.

"But I'm here to fight for my place in the first team and that is what the manager has told me do to. I'll do what's needed.

"It's nice to be liked and wanted and I felt like I was here and it's one of the reasons why I came here, the manager has been at the highest level and that was another draw.

"I've been here for a month and moved into my flat in Birmingham last week and it feels like home already.

"Moving around doesn't really bother me, my family are based near Reading and I had to move down to Southampton when I was 16 so it's not really a big deal for me now."

Lancashire will have to deal with veteran strikers Nicky Forster and Gary Alexander tomorrow, as former Wolves forward Carl Cort is sidelined with Achilles problems.

Winger Myles Weston is a major doubt with a groin injury but, in contrast, Walsall have a fully fit squad to choose from.

Ryan McGivern has returned unscathed from international duty with Northern Ireland meaning he is likely to return to left-back.

Aaron Lescott is set to revert to right-back with Darryl Westlake dropping to the bench and boss Chris Hutchings says his men will be well prepared.

He said: "Brentford have had a big injection of money. They are very well organised, hard to beat and Andy Scott has signed some good players in recent weeks.

"They got beaten at Carlisle on the first day and bounced back in the League Cup with a 2-1 win over Cheltenham.

"We've got reports and know what's what."

By Nick Mashiter

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