SWINDON Town manager Mark Cooper hopes that his players “answered one or two critics” with their superb rearguard effort at Bristol City.
Town hung on to secure a point from a goalless draw at Ashton Gate, despite seeing Alex Pritchard dismissed in the 55th minute for violent conduct, keeping their first clean sheet in seven outings in the process.
Cooper, who made six changes to his starting line-up following the 4-1 home mauling by Wolves on Tuesday night, including four to his back five, was delighted with the character shown by his players as they kept out a City team that went into the game off the back of a run of three consecutive wins.
“I’m very pleased. I know there were people questioning our spirit and our desire in recent weeks but hopefully that’s answered one or two critics in terms of what we feel about the club,” he said.
“I thought we were pretty comfortable (at half-time). We had one or two skirmishes but I always felt we had something to offer and we would create a chance or two. I felt pretty comfortable. You see the subs they’re putting on – Martin Paterson and people like that – who will try and get a goal.
“I thought we defended well, were pretty comfortable at half-time and the second half was a little difficult.”
Of Pritchard’s red card, incurred for pushing over City midfielder Wade Elliott, Cooper said: “You can’t do that. He’s pushed him in the chest, it’s right in front of the referee and he makes an easy decision for the referee. After that the 10 remaining players and the boys that came on were outstanding.
“We reshuffled a little bit and played 4-3-1-1 and always tried to carry a little bit of a threat with Massimo in behind Michael Smith, which we did, I thought, at times. But for a little bit of loose control we could have got in but it was fantastic effort from the players and a big point for us.”
Given that only two of his starting XI were over the age of 25, Cooper praised Town’s maturity in holding on for a point.
“When you’re down to 10 men, and if you look at our team with young players in compared to theirs with vastly experienced guys who know the level, then you know you’re going to come under pressure but we dealt with it pretty well,” he said.
“Wes (Foderingham) has had to make a couple of decent saves; we’ve had to throw bodies on the line which is what you have to do to get points in football. They know they can rely on each other, they know the defenders will get them out of jail, they know they’ll throw bodies on the line, they’ll head the ball in the box and they know if they stick together they can get their rewards.
“I’m pleased to stop the rot and get a point when there were a lot of people doubting is. Yes, it was a rearguard action but a very, very good one.”