PETERBOROUGH United remain favourites to progress to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final in the eyes of Swindon Town manager Mark Cooper, who’s reiterated that “favourites don’t always win”.
Having recovered from 2-0 and a man down at London Road 12 days ago, Swindon go into tonight’s clash with Posh level on aggregate and looking to secure a third trip to Wembley in less than four years.
Many fans and pundits have earmarked Town as the more likely of the two sides to progress, given their good home record this season, but Cooper feels Peterborough’s expensively-assembled squad - which now includes loan signings Josh McQuoid and Ben Nugent - are a major threat.
“Obviously Peterborough is a really tough game and they’re going to be odds-on favourites to beat us with the squad they’ve got and it’s going to be very difficult for us,” he said.
“Hopefully the resolve we’ve shown can be carried over and we can prove a few people wrong, upset the form book and get to Wembley.
“They have to be favourites because of their squad, the money they’ve spent and you look at the two players they’ve just brought in.
“For me they are favourites but favourites don’t always win.”
Town beat Plymouth Argyle, Wycombe Wanderers and Stevenage en route to reaching the JPT southern section area final and find themselves 90 minutes from Wembley - a prospect Cooper and Swindon owner Lee Power discussed at the start of the campaign.
“Before the first round Lee and myself sat down and we said, because we got a bye, that we were only three or four games away.
“We said it was a realistic opportunity to get to Wembley and bring in some much-needed revenue,” he said.
“I’m not saying we targeted it but we looked at it and thought maybe we had a realistic chance if the draw was kind to us, which it has been.”
Cooper has been a Wembley winner in the past, leading Darlington to FA Trophy success three years ago, and he would recommend the experience to anyone.
“It was brilliant. At whatever level you go to Wembley, in whatever trophy or competition, to win at Wembley or to play at Wembley, I would suggest, is one of the best days of your career,” he said.
“For me, with the way the team I was looking after won it, in the 120th minute, was fantastic.
“I said to the players before last Wednesday that when you finish your career, if you go to Wembley and win - no matter what trophy - you’ll always look back on it and remember it with great fondness.
“You remember the winning goal go in and the end where all your fans are.
“It’s incredible. There’s a lot of work to do before we start talking about that - a really tough game against a team that got a really good result against Leyton Orient last week.
“We’ll have it all to do, it will be a really tough game.”
Talk of the final will be kept to a minimum in the Town dressing room prior to kick-off, however, as Cooper tries to preserve his team’s focus.
“If you start talking about the occasion and everything surrounding it the players forget to concentrate on the football, which is what you have to do to win,” he said. “We’ll be focusing fully on the game, letting all the razzmatazz around it go on and focus fully on what happens in the 90 minutes and penalties if it needs them.”