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SWINDON TOWN: Cooper hoping for Hanson absence
MARK Cooper has his fingers crossed in the hope Bradford target man James Hanson is unavailable for Sunday’s game as the Town boss looks to tighten up his struggling defence.
Hanson has missed the Bantams’ last two matches with a calf strain but looks likely to regain his place in Phil Parkinson’s side for their game with Town at the weekend.
Swindon boss Cooper has been unhappy with the way his side have dealt with long balls into the box in recent weeks, which resulted in goals against both Coventry and Brentford, and knows their weakness will be tested to the extreme if 6ft 5in Hanson is fit to play.
The big striker is the perfect foil for 15-goal Bradford hitman Nahki Wells, leaving Cooper concerned at the prospect of facing the in-form duo.
“Wells is a big threat as is James Hanson, although he’s not played and missed the last few games. He’s an integral part of when they win games because they get the ball wide and cross it,” he said.
“Hanson wins a lot of knock-downs for Nahki Wells but he’s had a calf strain and I’m keeping my fingers crossed he won’t be fit for Saturday.
“Nahki Wells is a different kind of player because he’s a finisher and he’s very quick and mobile so they’re a great pairing in the way they compliment each other.
“When they’re at their best they can be a real threat but we might have to find a different way to stop them, we might have to stop them at source and stop them crossing the ball.
Much of Town’s work in training and analysis has been geared towards dealing with balls being pumped into the box, but Cooper believes the answer could be right under his nose in the form of Troy Archibald-Henville.
“I don’t have any concerns about our players turning up and performing it’s just the basic defending which worries me,” he said. “If a cross comes into the box ‘my man’s not going to score’ it should be as plain and simple as that for them. Coventry scored from a simple cross into the box, same again at Brentford, where we don’t necessarily get those goals - we have to work for them.
“I know where the problems are but you have to keep working, although January’s coming, and hope the penny drops with the way we defend.
“We still want to have a little bit more about us and I’m sure the centre-backs don’t want to be labelled as anything because we have to go all out attack because we can’t defend.
“At the moment it seems like every time a cross goes in the box we concede a goal.
“We’ve got Troy who’s nearly fit now and he will come into the reckoning because he has the potential to be a very good centre back. He came to the club for a lot of money and if we can get him through a development game next week he’ll be knocking on the door.
“He’s come back and he looks really good and he will be like a new signing for us.”
Cooper is also hopeful his young players will rise to the occasion when they play in front of a crowd of more than 15,000 on Sunday.
“It will be good for our boys to play in front of a big crowd there, they had 18,500 there on Boxing Day which is incredible, and it will be great for our boys to go there,” he said.
“Bradford are on a little bit of a bad run so hopefully we can take advantage of that.
“We need to keep the ball off them like we do, like we did at Brentford, we asked for a fast start and we did it to get ourselves a goal in front. We’ll be saying the same thing and if we can defend crosses we’ll be alright.
“We had a go and go beaten but we’d all rather have a go like we did at Brentford and get beat, than feel like we did after Sheffield United.
“With the players we’ve got we don’t want to ground them, we want them to go and express themselves so if we can sort out the defensive side of it we’ll be alright.”
Cooper has no new injury worries going into the contest but is having to deal with a number of sickness bugs which are doing the rounds within the squad. Ryan Harley was forced to drop to the bench ahead of the Boxing Day defeat at Brentford while a number of players, including Yaser Kasim, missed training yesterday due to illness.
“There’s a few players who have stayed away because they’re not right,” he said. “Ryan Harley was ill at Brentford, Dany N’Guessan was ill and Yaser’s ill.
“That happens and will happen in 30 or 40 per cent of the football clubs this week and we just have to deal with it.
“We’ll see how the land lies and try to pick the strongest team available to us.”
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