WREXHAM manager Denis Smith has defended summer signing Ryan Valentine, who collected his third booking in four matches during Sunday's 2-1 win at Chester City.
The tough-tackling former Wales under-21 international took a pay cut to join the Dragons from Darlington during the close-season and has become an instant hit with the club's supporters.
But following the latest yellow card the Racecourse boss has voiced concerns that the reliable defender is now just two cautions away from a mandatory three-match ban.
"I've had aword with Ryan about the situation," Smith said yesterday.
"I don't want him to curb his aggression, but the way the game is going tackling is becoming something of a dying art.
"I'm happy for him to put his foot in, but it be-
comes a problem if he picks up too many bookings.
"Against Chester he took the ball, but his studs were showing and then it's down to the referee's interpretation.
"That sort of thing is going to happen and Ryan needs to be aware of it.
"On the other hand, I'm not having a go at the lad because he's committed to this club and committed to winning games."
Smith's major headache ahead of tomorrow's Carling Cup first round clash with Sheffield Wednesday at
Hillsborough is the absence through suspension of central defender Steve Evans, who picked up a one-match ban as a result of his second-half dismissal at the Saunders Honda stadium.
"In the space of four days I've lost the services of two big lads, Steve and Dennis Lawrence, but we'll just have to get on with it and see what we can do," added the Race-course boss, who will decide between Mike Williams and Gareth Evans to partner
Shaun Pejic at the heart of the back four against the Owls.
He said: "This time last week I was reasonably optimistic and I'd still like to think we could have a little bit of a run in this year's competition.
"We showed in spells against Chester that our movement is good going forward and defensively we've been good as well, with Neil Roberts and Chris Llewellyn leading from the front."
Pejic, who returned from a long injurylay-off to complete the full 90 minutes against Chester, earned apat on the back from Smith, who said: "Shaun really could have done with another reserve game or two, but he was the most experienced defender on the books and he is a naturally strong and fit sort of lad.
"Hopefully he'll be able to cope with another full game on Wednesday.
"Steve, on the other hand, didn't train too much last week because of knocks and he was struggling to last the distance before he was sent off.
"He will need to do some fitness work this week to get him back right for Saturday's game against Barnet."
Midfield playmaker Darren Ferguson remains doubtful for the Hillsborough trip due to deep-seated bruising on the top of his left foot, restricting his ability to kick the ball without pain.
"Darren is running freely and has been having intensive treatment, but it's a case of waiting for the bruising to come out," added Smith.
"Fortunately, we have had the players to step in and do a job for us in midfield."
TWO goals from Jamie Reed, one a penalty, and another from Wales under 21 international Marc Williams gave Wrexham reserves a 3-1 win against Blackpool at Buckley last night.
The visitors who were trailing 3-0 at the break, pulled one back in the second half through Craig Reed, but it was too little too late as Wrexham notched up their first victory of the new Pontins League campaign.
Wrexham substitute Wes Baines lasted only a few minutes before being taken to hospital for treatment on a dislocated elbow.