Appleton delighted at bad boys’ improved behaviour

Luke Varney walks past Steve Cotterill after being sent off against Hull earlier in the season
Luke Varney walks past Steve Cotterill after being sent off against Hull earlier in the season
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It was a local derby without the spillage of blood.

Not so much as a skirmish, flare-up or even a handbag scuffle among the players.

And that’s just the way Michael Appleton likes it.

Just two yellow cards were brandished as Pompey locked horns with Southampton on Sunday.

Even then the tally was shared – a 1-1 draw, just like the eventual scoreline.

For the Blues, it represents continued strides in the improvement of on-the-pitch discipline.

While Steve Cotterill was manager, his side picked up a staggering 29 yellow cards in 11 matches. In addition, there were two sending offs.

Since Cotterill departed for Nottingham Forest in October, the tallies have reduced considerably.

Pompey have picked up 11 cautions in their subsequent 11 matches.

That includes six games overseen by former caretaker duo Guy Whittingham and Stuart Gray.

For Appleton, discipline has not been a focal point as he puts his own stamp on the club,

But he admits it was an important aspect to the Blues’ game which needed addressing.

He said: ‘It’s not something that I’ve made a big issue of.

‘But it’s something I remind them of in training every day and before games.

‘I experienced it with West Brom a couple of seasons ago where we had a lot of players sent off and a lot of bookings, and it cost us at times.

‘I remember one game at Blackpool where we had two men sent off before half-time.

‘We played well with nine men, but lost the game. It knocked the stuffing out of us for 10 weeks.

‘I haven’t drilled it into them, where the only thing they think about before they go to bed is discipline,

‘But it’s something that you can keep reminding them.

‘They have to keep their composure when things get a bit heated.’

Appleton himself admitted seeing red recently in the Burnley game.

Normally a composed figure on the touchline, he was infuriated at the decision to award a free-kick against Luke Varney for his foot being high on keeper Lee Grant.

He added: ‘Everyone makes mistakes.

‘With the Luke Varney incident, I lost my composure for a couple of minutes and it took me a while to calm down.

‘These things happen but you soon get yourself back on track.’