MARK Cooper lamented the ineffectual Swindon Town strike partnership of Michael Smith and Miles Storey after the Robins crashed to their first defeat in five outings at Carlisle United.

Gary Madine fired home the only goal of the game at Brunton Park to give the Cumbrians all three points and, while Cooper was pleased with much of his team’s display on their long trip to the north west, the Town boss was very much dissatisfied with the performances of his front two.

Neither Smith nor Storey were able to hold the ball up well enough, while Smith spurned a golden chance to level the game just after half-time, leaving their manager frustrated.

Cooper said: “I think if Gary Madine plays for us we win the game comfortably. I think we were perfect from back to front but we didn’t threaten the goal enough.

“To create chances you have to be able to get hold of the ball. We’ve got to keep going, we can’t really change it too much. In the second half I thought we played well. We had them camped in for long periods and we should have got something out of the game.

“We had chances at the start of the second half – really good chances – and if they go in you win the game, but we didn’t.

“I was pleased with most parts of the game. I thought we totally dominated possession but you’re only as good as your front players.

“We usually totally dominate the possession, which we did again today, but we couldn’t finish it off.

“The good was we totally dominated possession. I think if you asked the Carlisle players they’ve probably not done as much running as that in a game, chasing the ball, but you have to put the ball in the back of the net.

“We should have defended better for the goal but it’s frustrating because, in my opinion, we should have got something out of the game. The only problem for me is the front end of the pitch.

“You can’t replicate it on the big pitch, it’s about taking it when the pressure shot comes. But it’s not just about that, it’s about holding the ball up, getting a few stitches and being brave and getting hold of the ball.

“They’re young, they work hard but they’ve got to be able to develop their games – they’ve got to get hold of the ball.”

Cooper once again hinted to the Advertiser after the game that Nile Ranger could be back at the club for next season, saying: “Obviously we’ve got Nile and we need to get Nile fit and see how he shapes up in pre-season.

“If Nile plays it’s a totally different game. Off the pitch we don’t (know what we’re going to get from Nile) but that’s where we’re at.

“We can’t go out and get a Gary Madine, whose on ridiculous – we can’t do that so we have to do it a different way.

“They (Smith and Storey) have shown glimpses, they work hard but they’ve got to be better when you’re working possession.

“Somewhere along the line the ball has to go forward and that invariably means the centre-forward getting hold of the ball so the rest of the team can get up and support.

“We don’t do that well enough.”