“IF Nile Ranger had been fit, we’d be in the play-offs.”

Swindon Town manager Mark Cooper is convinced his side would be hot on the tails of sixth-placed Peterborough United right now, had it not been for his star striker’s hamstring injury.

Ranger, who has scored 10 goals in 28 appearances for the Robins since arriving in August, has not featured for Town since February 14 after suffering a grade three hamstring tear during the Valentine’s Day clash with Colchester United at the County Ground.

And Cooper feels his absence has had a major bearing on the way his team’s season has played out.

He said: “I think everyone knows, if Nile Ranger had been fit we’d be in the play-offs. That’s not blasé, I think it’s true. If he’d been fit we’d have been in the play-offs.

“We didn’t expect him or didn’t envisage him getting injured and it has been so long. Nile’s here, we have to pay him and that probably makes it different to bring someone else in of that ilk.

“If you look at the results in past and the ratios, if he’d have been fit I think we’d be in the play-offs. That answers something when you’re talking about what we need to do next season.”

Swindon currently find themselves seven points off the top six with just five games of the campaign remaining and, with a place in the end-of-season lottery well out of their own hands, the Town boss’s claim that Ranger’s presence would have made a significant difference are backed up by the statistical evidence.

From the 23 league games the former Newcastle frontman played, Swindon took 40 points at an average of 1.74 per game, scoring 43 goals in the process at an average of 1.87 per game.

In the 18 that he has missed, the Robins have amassed just 17 at less than a point a match. In that time they have managed 15 goals – again, less than one a game – and Town have only scored twice in a single match on one occasion since Ranger was ruled out through injury.

Ranger’s one-year contract at the County Ground is set to expire this summer, though Swindon have the option of extending his stay by a further 12 months, and Cooper has hinted in recent weeks at the possibility of the 23-year-old returning for pre-season training in June.