MIDFIELDER turned defender Keith Ryan believes he is now better in defence than midfield after playing both positions in Saturday's 0-0 draw at Carlisle.

Rhino played 30 minutes in midfield before dropping into the back five again after Michael Forsyth went off following a recurrence of his hamstring strain.

Ryan said: "I was all at sea in midfield. I was there for about half an hour and didn't make any impression on the game but as soon as I went into the defence my game picked up."

Ryan's transformation has been incredible. Manager John Gregory was widely criticised when he moved the combative midfielder into defence this season.

Ryan, who loves to get forward, was one of those doubters.

He said: "I never thought I would say this but I think I'm a better defender than midfielder now. If I was picking the team for the rest of the season I'd pick myself in defence now."

Gregory was not the first manager to recognise the defensive potential of 27-year-old Ryan, but he was the first one to back his theories with action.

Ryan said: "Martin O'Neill used to say to me that I would possibly be able to play higher up the leagues as a defender but he needed me in midfield then. I would like to think I could play a higher standard but every footballer thinks that don't they."

Ryan was quick to heap praise on fellow defenders Paul McCarthy, Michael Forsyth and Nicky Mohan for guiding him through his conversion.

Certainly Nicky Mohan, only playing on Saturday because of David Kerslake's groin injury, was the perfect tutor at Brunton Park with a faultless display of defending.

Mohan finally showed the form that persuaded Gregory to spend the club's last £75,000 on him earlier this season with a display that oozed aggression, determination and perfect timing.

And patched-up Wanderers needed it. They started the match without suspended midfielders Dave Carroll and Steve Brown and were without groin strain victim Kerslake before Forsyth hobbled off with a recurrence of an injury which Wanderers had hushed up all week.

And Blues' problems worsened when rejuvenated midfielder Michael Simpson was sent off for his second booking for a second rash and unnecessary challenge five minutes from time. He saw red for a clumsy lunge on £2 million rated Matt Jansen who trains with Manchester United during the week and turns out for Carlisle on Saturdays.

Wanderers' ten men were left hanging on for the five minutes that remained but despite failing to muster more than one goal attempt in the second half they could have won it if Mark Stallard's two first half efforts, both from Mohan assists, had not struck both posts.

Stallard said ruefully: "I needed one more for my hat-trick. If I'd have hit the bar as well I could have taken the goal home."

Gregory was disapointed not to take all the points.

He said: "We spurned some good opportunites which were far better than anything Carlisle had.

"We are still under-achieving. We didn't have everyone out there on top of their game.

"It's all about standards and what you want to achieve and I want to come to places like this and win.

"We've done well to hold their home run but I just think what we've let slip through our hands. If we could have won here and were to beat Brentford on Saturday then we really could have started jumping up the table."

But Gregory's two points dropped summing up ignores the fact that Carlisle should have had a penalty when goalkeeper Martin Taylor brought down Gareth McAlindon.

Gregory admitted: "It was a penalty. We got lucky there and I can't deny it. If he'd given it I wouldn't have had any arguments whatsoever."

Carlisle: Caig, Delap, Thorpe, Prokas, Varty, Wallwork, Anthony, Pounewatchy, Stevens, Jansen, McAlindon (Dobie 76). Subs not used: Bowman, Couzens

Wycombe: Taylor, Kavanagh, Beeton, Ryan, McCarthy, Forsyth (Cornforth 28), Mohan, Harkin, Stallard, McGavin (Cousins 89), Simpson. Sub not used: Read.

Michael Simpson will miss the St Valentine's Day clash against Burnley at Adams Park after his dismissal against Carlisle.

Simpson, who has only just won his place back in the side, was kicking himself afterwards.

He said: "I'm really disappointed. I've just got back into the side and started playing well again but now I've gone and got myself a suspension which was the last thing I wanted."

Blues boss Gregory thought he was unlucky to be sent off.

He said: "Neither of his challenges were malicious, they were just enthusiastic. The referee did not take the spirit of the game into account."

But Simmo can forget any thoughts about having a Saturday off with his feet up on the 14th.

Gregory said: "I'll be sending him out on a scouting mission to look at one of our next opponents."

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