MANAGER Mark Cooper thinks Swindon Town have been more affected by their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat to Peterborough United than he originally anticipated.

The Robins were a penalty shoot-out away from a trip to Wembley earlier this month before heartbreak struck at the County Ground and Posh emerged victorious from the two teams area final.

In the aftermath of that game, Cooper was confident his young squad had the mental strength to move on quickly from the experience but, 11 days, a draw and a loss later, the Swindon boss has found that hasn’t quite been the case.

However, he stressed in his pre-match media briefing ahead of Town’s visit to Crewe Alexandra this weekend that several factors may have contributed to his side’s recent stutter.

When asked whether the JPT defeat hit Swindon harder than expected, Cooper said: “It has done, yes. At the time you think it won’t but I think it does when you’re that close to getting to a final and to playing at Wembley.

“More than that, we’ve lost some really influential players. We’re without Nile Ranger, Alex Pritchard, up until the other night (Jay) McEveley and the Thompsons, Ryan Mason - those players are going to get in any team in our league and some of the ones above.

“That’s knocked us but the boys who come in have to roll their sleeves up and try to make sure their performances can put us in a situation where we can get some points.

“When you take the players our of the team who are top quality players it’s difficult to replace.”

The likes of Jacob Murphy, Jack Barthram, Michael Smith, Tijane Reis, Tyrell Belford and Ben Gladwin have been shouldered with the responsibility of taking Town forward in the absence of their senior colleagues - and Cooper said that this period was always going to be a tricky one for Swindon.

“It’s probably difficult at the moment to follow the players that we haven’t got and the ones we have put in the team are invariably young, trying to learn and trying to find their way in the game,” he said.

“We’re not going to be too critical of them and it’s important that everybody sticks together, gets behind the group because it’s not going to change until the end of the season and we want to finish the season as well as we can and see what happens.

“We want to win as many games as we can, trying to play the way we play and see what happens.”