PETER JACKSON today defended Town's grisly disciplinary record as preparations began for the eagerly-anticipated Carling Cup-tie at Sunderland.
Town are still counting the cost of Saturday's 2-0 Division III defeat by Swansea City at the Vetch Field in which Paul Scott and Ian Hughes were sent off and three players injured.
Physio Lee Martin is treating Rob Edwards (hamstring), debut star David Mirfin (knee) and Lee Fowler (leg) ahead of tomorrow's second-round trip to the Stadium of Light (7.45).
At least Danny Schofield is available again after completing his three-match ban - one of four sendings-off for Town in just 10 outings which have also brought 18 other bookings.
It puts Town near the top of the foul play league, but Jackson believes his players have been hard done by as they look to improve on 17th place with home games against Leyton Orient and Kidderminster after tomorrow's cut-price tie on Wearside.
"We have had inconsistency from referees all season and on Saturday, I thought Steve Tanner was very poor," said Jackson today.
"I'm not picking on him particularly because it seems to have been all through, but the sending off of Paul Scott was very harsh in my opinion.
"He doesn't know how to make a bad tackle and you just hope the referee uses a bit of common sense when players are battling for the ball.
"Ian Hughes's incident was more a case of frustration than anything else because Lee Trundle was causing havoc by keeping the ball and upsetting a few of the players, but we finished with nine men and two more suspensions we could have done without.
"I can't believe we have had four sendings-off this season. We are not a dirty team and I don't think we've put in a bad tackle in any of the games we've had."
Efe Sodje completes his ban against Sunderland and Orient, so Jackson is hoping young Mirfin can overcome having four stitches in a right-knee wound to continue alongside Scott against Marcus Stewart and Co.
Sunderland go into the game having snatched a 1-1 draw at Derby thanks to a last-gasp header from goalkeeper Mart Poom, who went up for a corner.
"I was delighted with Mirfin on Saturday because he got stronger and stronger, and Nat Brown also did very well as sub when he went on," added Jackson.
"We will have to see how these injuries work out, but the squad is being stretched and this is going to be a real test of our character.
"The fans know how well we can play on our day and we know we need to be more consistent.
"People might think the cup-tie is the last thing we want, but Saturday is gone now, it's great to have a big game to look forward to and we will be going up there very positively indeed.
"The players were obviously down after the match on Saturday because we expected to come back with a good result.
"But we'll be up again for tomorrow night. All the pressure is definitely on Sunderland as far as I am concerned, none of the pressure is on us and we will go up there with a lot of supporters behind us to enjoy the occasion and give it our best shot."
Jackson intends to take every fit player North for the tie.
Town will lose Hughes for the matches against Southend, Torquay and Lincoln next month while Scott will miss just the long haul for the match at Southend on Saturday, October 4.