MARK Cooper thought his Swindon Town side only played “for 20 minutes out of 90” during their limp 2-0 defeat to Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium on Saturday.
Goals from Leon Legge and Michael Harriman handed the Gills victory and ensured Town’s winless run in Kent was extended to 26 years, while the Robins are also without a victory on the road in two months this season.
After the game Cooper suggested Swindon were below-par for the vast majority of the match, saying in the post-match press conference: “I thought we had a spell for 20 minutes in the second half where we played well and we needed to score.
“We had them on the rack and we had two or three really good chances and we need to score one of them.
“When you’re on top you need to score and if we score I think we’ve got a chance of going on to win the game.
“We only played for 20 minutes out of 90 and that’s not good enough. We were aware of (Adebayo) Akinfenwa’s threat.
“They get a lot of free-kicks off him, we gave a silly free-kick away and nobody picked up their man for the first goal.
“It’s a free header. It’s a soft goal.
“In the first half we huffed and puffed without really having too much up front and in the second half we came out and I thought we played really well for 20 minutes.
“We’re not getting enough from the front of the pitch at the minute.
“We were gambling and we put four up front to try to get back into the game.
“You’re conceding a bit of ground and you’re hoping that you defend and get a bit of a break and get the ball to our four strikers.
“It never happened.”
It was a familiar story for the 372 Town fans who braved the trek to Gillingham. Swindon have struggled to find any sort of fluency away from home for some time and Cooper again gave his team’s youthfulness as a possible reason for avoidable errors.
“I think we controlled the second half but if you don’t defend the ball when it comes in your box and you don’t score when it goes in their box you’re not going to win many football matches,” he said.
“We’re conceding too many and not scoring enough at the moment.
“They’re young, they’re learning and they’re only going to keep learning by playing and making mistakes.
“I think they’re just individual errors.
“It’s simple – you’ve got your man and you’re told that before the game, you don’t pick him up and he scores, it’s your fault.”
Cooper is loathed to change the way he sets his team up away from home, suggesting that the more direct route is not a feasible option.
“We went three at the back to try to make sure we could get the ball out from the back,” he said.
“We had a spare man with them having one up and one in behind.
“We tried to get the ball out from the back, which is what we’re all about, and we’ve got a group of players that have to play.
“It’s no good for the goalkeeper to keep whacking it down the middle because when he did whack it down the middle their centre-half dominated Nile Ranger today and we have to try to play out.
“We played three centre-halves to try to outnumber them and at the start of the second half we passed the ball really well without scoring.
“I thought (Raphael) Branco was very good again, I thought (Alex) Pritchard was lively again, Jay (McEveley) did fine but it’s not enough when we need to be getting points away from home.”