MARK Cooper was left feeling a mixture of frustration and pride after his side’s 1-0 loss at Crawley this afternoon.
Despite controlling the game and having close to 30 efforts on goal, Izale McLeod’s penalty early in the second period was enough for the home side to take the victory after Louis Thompson was shown a red card for bringing down McLeod inside the box following a long ball over the top.
Referee James Linington’s view of Thompson’s tackle came from a metre inside the Swindon half, with his linesman significantly closer and seemingly offering no opinion, leaving Cooper angry despite his side’s impressive performance in Sussex.
“I’ve seen it and the referee is just inside our half of the pitch when Louis Thompson makes contact with the ball, he’s given a penalty from the halfway line when he can’t see whether Louis gets the ball or not when the linesman’s stood 20 yards away,” he said.
“The linesman never moved, never gave it, and the referee’s given it from the halfway line.
“Whether it’s a penalty or not, I don’t see how a referee can make a decision like that from the halfway line. Louis slides, gets a touch on the ball and the ball goes back to our goalkeeper, the ball’s deviated from its course so that tells you Louis has got the ball.
“You could tell by the referee’s reaction at the end that he’d made a mistake. The speed at which he gave it was incredible.”
While the penalty incident and the subsequent red card were the main talking point, Cooper was keen to stress just how pleased he was with his players as they out-passed, out-shot and out-played their hosts throughout the 90 minutes.
“I thought we were outstanding, it was a one-sided game and we dominated the football,” he said.
“You can’t play that well and lose many games I don’t think, so that’s the lesson for the players. They can’t play that well, create so much around the box and not win.
“The only thing I would say against us is that our final ball was not quite good enough when we could have taken the keeper out of it, we gave him a chance to save.
“We judge our performances and today it was absolutely top drawer.
“I said to the players at half time, ‘don’t take any liberties and defend properly’, because we’ve seen so many games before where teams dominate and get hit by a sucker punch and that’s what’s happened.
“We will look at our performance today and go away knowing we’ve played very well and there’s not a lot to fix.”
Cooper was also impressed with the way his side continued to play despite being reduced to 10 men, while he was also pleased by the traveling supporter’s reaction to the defeat at the final whistle.
“When we were down to 10 men we left two up front and three at the back, getting everybody forward, because they’re that fit and that enthusiastic we knew we wouldn’t have a problem,” he said.
“We just couldn’t force the equaliser which would have been the least we deserved I thought.
“The supporters were tremendous at the end and realised how well we’ve played, it’s just a freak we haven’t got anything.
“Anyone at the game would have seen how we played and how good we were.”
Next up for Town is a trip to Gillingham on Tuesday night, with Cooper expecting Peter Taylor’s side to adapt their game to cope with his young, slick, side.
“I spoke to the boys at the end and said to them we have to bounce back at Gillingham on Tuesday because we are thoroughly happy with our performance,” he said.
“I think everybody knows how we play so they try and stop us and change their team, which is great, it’s respect and credit to our players.
“The measure will be how we bounce back.”