CHEIK TIOTE insists his disciplinary record has improved this season, but the midfielder still believes his tough-tackling reputation makes him an easy target for Premier League referees.
Tiote picked up his 11th yellow card of the season in Saturday's defeat to Swansea City in a foul referee Craig Pawson, who was taking charge of his first top-flight game, deemed too high.
The Ivory Coast international was slightly unlucky given television replays showed he made no contact with Swans midfielder Nathan Dyer, but having been warned minutes earlier it was inevitable Tiote's next offence would see him enter the book.
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The 26-year-old has come in for considerable criticism for his disciplinary record since arriving on Tyneside, which has seen him collect 36 yellows and two reds in 70 appearances.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has spoken about the need to cut down the amount of bookings he receives before and the midfielder insists he is more careful now.
However, the former FC Twente man believes he is still a target for referees, although insists he will strive to improve his abysmal record.
"I think sometimes I get punished because people know I have a lot of bookings already in England," Tiote said. "I think sometimes this happens. On Saturday I wasn't at fault but I got a booking.
"That's football though, I just need to concentrate on my game and not let it affect me.
"I think my discipline is better now than last season. I need to keep doing the same things and to continue to improve in that way.
"I don't know why I was booked on Saturday. I tried to take the ball but I didn't touch anyone. The referee made a decision though and I have to accept that."
It is fair to say that Tiote's overall performances haven't hit the heights of previous campaigns either, but the 26-year-old believes a month away with his country at the African Cup of Nations has done him the world of good.
He said: "I think my form is better. It was good for me to go to Africa. I need sometimes to go back to Africa to get my form back: now I feel good, I feel better and I want to continue like this."
Newcastle's recent upturn in form was pegged back at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, despite a spirited second half performance.
Pardew side created chance after chance against the recently crowned Capital One Cup winners, but they couldn't find the back of the net and eventually went down to Luke Moore's 86th minute strike.
The whole squad looked dejected as they left the field at the weekend, but Tiote hopes they can take their second half performance into Thursday's Europa League tie with Anzhi.
"I don't know how we lost on Saturday," Tiote said. "We were really disappointed because I think we played well and we deserved at least a draw - definitely not to lose the game.
"But that's football, we lost and now we need to get on with it and focus on winning the next game.
"We can definitely take something from the performance. It was good that everyone did what they were asked to do and everyone put a good performance in. We need to replicate that in the next game too."
The next one is a tricky trip to face Anzhi in Moscow and although the Russian club's money chest has funded moves for Samuel Eto, Lassana Diarra and Yuri Zhirkov, Tiote believes the Magpies can get a result.
He said: "Thursday is a very tough game. We are playing away which always puts pressure on you because the home team knows how important it is to win the first game. For us we have to do everything we can to get a good result.
"It will be a good experience for everyone out in Russia. I have never played against Samuel Eto but he is one of the top strikers in the world. We have a chance though. We can go out there and get a top result."
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