MARK Cooper looks set to tinker with his defensive options when Swindon Town visit Tranmere Rovers this evening in an effort to protect Troy Archibald-Henville and Jay McEveley.

The defenders, both of whom have been in good form for Town in recent weeks, rarely play two competitive matches in quick succession as they manage their knees following surgery.

As a result, Cooper may draft in Raphael Rossi Branco to feature alongside Jack Stephens at the heart of the Town rearguard, while Nathan Thompson could be employed as a centre-back should the Robins boss stick with a back three.

And he even suggested Ben Gladwin, who was man of the match in central midfield on Saturday, could do a job in that position as well.

“Troy and Jay are in the situation where they have to manage their knees at the moment,” said Cooper. “They’re in a regime where they don’t really train on two consecutive days or play on a Saturday and a Tuesday until they get that strength back in their knee. What we don’t want to do is them keep playing and training and playing and training and risk them having a breakdown with their knees, maybe have to have another operation.

“They’re both out of contract so it’s a tricky situation and we have to do the best by them as well. It’s difficult for them to be able to play twice in a week at the moment.

“We’ve got Raf Branco to come back in. He’s learning and he’s definitely someone we can work with. We’ve got to take that little bit of rashness out of him but I think he can go in and play without too much worry.

“Nathan Thompson can play there, Ben Gladwin can play centre-back - looking at him on Saturday I think he can play anywhere. We’ve got options. We could easily go back to a four but we’ll see.”

Club captain Darren Ward was rested for the trip to Bristol City 10 days ago and missed the weekend win over Preston North End due to a family bereavement but he is back in contention for a place in the matchday squad.

Cooper said: “He’s available for selection. He had a family bereavement over the weekend, which is why he wasn’t involved, but he was back in training today (Monday).”