MARK Cooper has been impressed by the desire shown by some ‘fringe’ members of his Swindon Town squad over the course of the last two weeks.
With a number of first-team regulars out injured or suspended, Cooper has been left to entrust the likes of Ben Gladwin, Alex Smith and new boy Jack Stephens with the responsibility of leading his side towards a satisfactory conclusion to an up and down campaign.
They have done just that, with Stephens making a big impact on debut at Bristol City and all three impressing in the weekend win over Preston North End.
Now, Cooper has asked for those players not to let off, as Swindon visit Tranmere Rovers in search of their first victory on the road since February 8.
“We threw the gauntlet down to the boys who are maybe out of contract or have not been in the team to show us what they can do. You can only go on the last performance and they’ve done well,” he said.
“Like they say in football, you’re only as good as your last game. At the moment they’re good but tomorrow’s another day.
“I think the two performances have shown is that desire and fight, first of all, that you have to have before you can play football.
“In any game of football you have to fight for the right and you have to fight for the territory before you can play your football, and that’s what we’ve done.
“Last Saturday was backs-to-the-wall with 10 men but Saturday I thought we played a pretty clever game. The players carried out what we tried to do and I thought they were really good.
“I thought they were full of energy, they looked organised and they expressed themselves as well.”
Tranmere sit a point above the League One drop zone and lost 3-2 at Port Vale on Saturday. However, Rovers are unbeaten at home in their last three outings, which have included wins against Notts County and Coventry, and the Merseyside outfit haven’t failed to score at Prenton Park since October 19.
Therefore, Cooper is well aware of the task at hand.
He said: “They played very well for a spell in the second half at Port Vale. They were 3-0 down and fought back to 3-2. They could easily have got a point out of it and player very well.
“They switched to a three at the back after 55 minutes and caused Port Vale a lot of problems, which is a tough thing to do. We’re under no illusions that Tranmere need as many points as they can get.
“They’ve got some good young players, like ourselves, and it’s always a difficult place to go. We’re expecting nothing other than a really tough game.”
Cooper is likely to stick with a 3-5-2 formation tonight, but he stressed that formations alone do not win games.
“Systems within five yards are all the same,” he said. “It’s all about how you carry it out on the pitch.
“We could go and play any system you want and if the players roll their sleeves up and show the fight and desire that they’ve shown in the last two games I’m not sure the system really matters.”