Jason Pearce fears for the future of tackling after seeing David Norris shown a straight red card in Pompey’s defeat to West Ham.
The rugged Blues defender has built his own game on fully-committed challenges for the ball but has steered clear of trouble with just two yellow cards this season.
Referee Kevin Friend showed Norris a straight red card for a foul on Hammers defender Winston Reid early in the second half, which effectively ended Pompey’s hopes of staging a fightback against the Championship high-flyers.
And Pearce is worried a key part of the game is slowly being phased out by the authorities.
The former Bournemouth defender preferred to keep his thoughts to himself on the referee’s controversial decision to dismiss Norris.
Pearce explained: ‘I don’t really want to talk about the referee.
‘He made his decisions and whether they were right or wrong, it doesn’t change anything. We’ve all just got to get on with it, so I’m not going to comment on his decisions.
‘All I know is that Chuck (Norris) is not a dirty player and I know he wouldn’t go out to hurt someone.
‘Whether he went in with a two-footed tackle, I don’t know. But the ref deemed it was with two feet so he has gone.
‘There have been some challenges recently in football that have been good challenges and players have got sent off for them.
‘It’s a contact sport and nobody wants to see tackling go out of the game – especially me.
‘It’s becoming harder and harder to be a defender. The fans love that side of the game and so do we as players.
‘But I think I’ve had to adapt my game. At this level, the balls into the striker are usually accurate and you don’t always get the chance to smash someone like you used to.
‘If someone has a loose touch, I love to get in there but you just can’t. I think it’s gone too far the other way with protection against tackles. I think everyone thinks that.
‘But you have to play by the rules.’
While it was Pompey’s first defeat at Fratton Park since September, Pearce was encouraged by the character the Blues showed in the face of adversity.
He said: ‘I thought the lads were superb. West Ham are joint top of the league, they are a good team and they are there on merit.
‘But with 11 men, we matched them and I thought the lads dug in really well at times.
‘We are obviously disappointed but the gaffer has told us we need to move on quickly and that it was a good performance.
‘We gave it a really good go with 10 men and we have to take the positives out of the game.’