Mike Carter has become a marked man for referees in Vanarama Conference South, according to Gosport Borough boss Alex Pike.
The Privett Park midfielder returns to the squad for tomorrow’s trip to Wealdstone after serving a six-match suspension.
But he may be forced to wait even longer for his first-team chance after his team-mates chalked up successive wins against Bath City and Sutton United.
The former Sholing man had been one of Borough’s most consistent performers and was enjoying a fine season after his summer move.
But while Pike feels the former Southampton trainee must learn his lessons and adapt his combative style, he also believes referees have been swayed by the midfielder’s reputation.
Pike said: ‘There is no malice in Mike Carter.
‘He sees a tackle and commits to it.
‘He’s got to learn when to stay on his feet and when to tackle.
‘He just needs to settle down a bit but it doesn’t help that he has this reputation now. He’s a young man and it’s all about experience.
‘I don’t want to take that edge from his game but he has to be controlled.
‘I know referees talk to each other and there is no doubt in my mind that some pre-judge players.
‘I know that Mike has been subject to that where referees are looking to send players off, and I’m pretty sure Nic Ciardini has been subject to that at Havant as well.
‘It’s completely wrong. Referees should be judging things on the incident and not on a player’s reputation.’
Pike admits he is yet to decide whether to restore Carter to the starting line-up against Wealdstone, with plenty of options available to him with loanee River Allen joining Andy Robinson, Tom Dunford, Danny Smith, Steve Ramsey, Dan Wooden and Adam Wilde in the battle for selection in midfield.
The Borough boss said: ‘It’s nice to have Mike back from his holiday but it’s a catch-22 situation.
‘Before he got suspended, he was one of my best players.
‘But now he’s missed six games and you wonder if he will be match ready.
‘Then again, if I don’t put him straight back in, he will miss even more games.
‘We’ve also won our past two games so it’s hard to get him straight back in the side.
‘It’s certainly one I need to think about.
‘Playing him at right-back is an option as we have to manage Andy Forbes, who has intimated to me that he is retiring at the end of the season.’
Brett Poate remains sidelined with a calf problem, with Robinson or Bournemouth loan recruit, Matt Butcher, in contention to partner Sam Pearce in central defence.
Meanwhile, Robbie Matthews has joined Weymouth on a month’s loan.
Pike is also keen to maintain the recent momentum and pick up a win against their mid-table opponents.
He said: ‘We’ve only got 11 games to go but there is still a lot to play for.
‘We have been better when we have the underdogs tag and when we go into games expected to win, we are not at our best.
‘It’s something we have spoken about and we need to address that.’
GOSPORT BOROUGH: (from) Ashmore, Forbes, Robinson, Pearce, Williams, Allen, Dunford, Smith, Wooden, Paterson, Bennett, Carter, Ramsey, Wort, Butcher, Saez, Wilde.