There was a sigh of relief at the final whistle on Saturday when Richie Smallwood completed a 13th game without a yellow card.

In avoiding a booking Smallwood is no longer walking a suspension tightrope that he has been treading since December 30.

The Rovers midfielder had been one yellow card away from a two-match ban since the 2-2 draw with Scunthorpe United, when he collected his ninth booking of the season.

But the 27-year-old has now reached the 37 game cut-off point which means he will need to reach 15 cautions before any possible suspension.

He will now be able to continue his run as a League One ever-present in the middle of the Rovers midfield, having served his one-match suspension for five yellow cards during the FA Cup first round win over Barnet in November, much to the delight of boss Tony Mowbray.

“It’s amazing. If you think about the nine bookings he picked up in the first 24 games, to have the discipline in his football to know when to put his foot in is fantastic,” Mowbray said.

“He’s a competitive footballer who likes to get stuck in and win tackles, he gets into the team because he’s a warrior.

“I’ve spoken about artists and soldiers at this club, and he’s definitely a soldier, but the discipline to not get booked for so long is fantastic.

“He’s passed that window, where the next booking won’t get him a two-game ban, so I’m pretty sure he’ll get one against Gillingham.

“I have to give him great credit.”

The Rovers boss had considered bringing in a fourth central midfield player to the club in the January transfer window because of the suspension hanging over summer signing Smallwood and Rekeem Harper having been recalled by West Bromwich Albion.

Mowbray, who previously worked with Smallwood at Middlesbrough, didn’t believe that the tough-tackling midfielder would be able to go so many games without a booking.

Though he has admitted he has substituted his midfield man at times with the amnesty in mind.

Smallwood reached five bookings by the end of October, though his one-match ban was served during the FA Cup first round tie with Barnet while he was also rested for the third round clash with Crewe Alexandra.

But having come through 2018 without a booking he will be able to keep his place for Saturday’s trip to Gillingham, something made more important with the possibility that Elliott Bennett, who has been Smallwood’s partner in midfield, could be needed at right-back because of the injury to Ryan Nyambe.

Though Mowbray admits he didn’t have much faith in Rovers’ number six going so long without a booking.

He said: “I’d have to say, I didn’t believe he could survive all these games without getting booked.

“I thought it was inevitable so I rotated the midfield a bit with Corry (Evans) and (Elliott) Bennett in there, to make sure that when his suspension came that we had players who knew what the role was about.

“Yet, Richie has got through those games and will look forward to next week.”