MANAGER Martin Ling has warned centre-forward Rene Howe that he risks spoiling his flying start to the season because of his disciplinary record.
Ling admits to feeling sorry for Howe on occasions, including his latest caution in last Saturday's 0-0 Devon derby draw against Plymouth Argyle.
But he says: "Rene is making it too easy for referees to book him at the moment."
Fans' favourite Howe was United's leading scorer last season with 14 goals.
But he was also sent off twice, booked ten times and missed four matches through suspension.
Before this season he said that one of his ambitions for 2012-2013 was to get through the winter without a ban.
Slimmed-down Howe has scored three times in the Gulls' first five unbeaten games of this campaign.
But he's also received yellow cards in the last three matches and is already only two away from an automatic one-game ban.
Ling, who was critical of Wiltshire referee Roger East's handling of last weekend's derby, said: "I thought Rene's booking that time was harsh.
"But he's earned the other two himself – standing nose to nose with someone against Rochdale and kicking the ball away at Port Vale.
"Referees will book for that sort of thing all day.
"He's got to take that out of his game, because otherwise it's going to cost him and us.
"Rene is a good player and important to us, with the system we want to play, and he's doing well at the moment.
"He takes his share of stick, and most of the time he just gets on with it.
"Centre-forwards will get booked from time to time, just like centre-halves will, but picking up cards for nothing is a waste.
"The last thing we want is to lose Rene when it's unnecessary, especially this early in the season."
United take their unbeaten start to Rotherham United's new 12,000-seater New York Stadium on Saturday, but they won't be facing their old adversary, Millers boss Steve Evans, there.
Evans was this week slapped with a six-week 'stadium ban' and a £3,000 fine for his behaviour after the infamous Valley Parade brawl following Bradford City's league game against Crawley Town last March.
Ling said: "Rotherham had their bums smacked with a 6-2 defeat at Port Vale last week, but they are the bookies' favourites for promotion and they will be a tough nut to crack."
United hope to have midfielder Craig Easton back from a groin strain, and winger Lloyd Macklin is also back in training after a hamstring injury.
Another of their sidelined players, young winger Saul Halpin, will know after another week's work whether he will escape surgery for a crack in an ankle bone.
Scans have revealed the fracture, but if it continues to mend under progressive exercise, Halpin could avoid having an operation to pin it.
Meanwhile, United's Second Round Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie at home to Yeovil Town has been set for Tuesday, October 9 (7.45pm). Prices will be reduced to £10 Adults and £5 Under-16s.
And the Gulls will play AFC Bournemouth in a Reserve friendly at Plainmoor next Wednesday at 1pm (£3 adults/£1 Concessions).