Mark Cooper believes he has the players in his Yeovil Town squad to cope with the absence of key players as they approach the business end of the National League season.
The Glovers were without right-back Michael Smith (hamstring) and strikers Rhys Murphy (hamstring) and Jake Hyde (calf) for the midweek 3-1 win over Slough Town, with captain Matt Worthington filling in on the right side.
Up front, the manager lined up with Frank Nouble alongside Jordan Young, Sam Pearson and Dylan Morgan, with two of that quartet getting on the scoresheet.
Asked about changing his personnel, the manager said: “I had no real issues because the way our full-backs play, certainly on the right side, they are wingers. I had no worries whether it was Worthy, Charlie, Sonny, they can all play out there in the way we play. I knew Worthy would be competent.
“Going back to the front line, if you said in this division there was a frontline of Frank Nouble, Jordan Young, Sam Pearson, Dylan Morgan, a lot of teams would bite your hands off for that front four. We are missing (Jake) Hyde and Murph (Rhys Murphy) but those four are more than capable.”
The boss expects Murphy and Hyde to be out for “a sustained period of time” and said the arrival of young striker Olly Thomas, on loan from Championship side Bristol City, would support Nouble in the centre forward position.
The 18-year-old came off the bench after 66 minutes of Tuesday night’s home win to make his second debut having had a spell at Huish Park from July until the start of September, when he was recalled to Ashton Gate and loaned out to League Two side Newport County.
Cooper said: “You saw Olly’s quality when he came off the bench the other night, he has pace, power, strength that caused issues and helped us get the third goal. The reason we brought Olly in was to take the workload off Frank a bit.
“We get on really well with Brian Tinnion (the Bristol City Academy Coach) and he’s helped us out on numerous occasions. Olly has been to a few of our games (since he left), and it’s a shame he played so well against Newport in pre-season because they came and took him.
“But we were just waiting for his injury (sustained in mid-November during his time at Newport) to clear up and when it cleared up we were always going to take him.”
With a 16-point advantage at the top of the table restored with the midweek win, Yeovil head to FA Cup heroes Maidstone United this weekend. The Stones’ last match saw them pull off a stunning 2-1 fourth round win at high-flying Championship side Ipswich Town.
They sit fourth in the National League South table, 19 points adrift of the leaders, but Cooper is under no illusions his side face a tough time in Kent at the weekend.
He said: “We watched (their game at Ipswich) on the coach on the way to St Albans. They could have been 5-0 down in the first 15 minutes, but in the FA Cup you sometimes get that bit of luck. They grew in confidence, their organisation was fantastic and they got their rewards.
“They made a hell of a lot of money, got through and now they are in the fifth round, so fair play to them. George (Elokobi, the Maidstone manager) has done a great job there and they are still in there at the top end of the table.
“We are expecting them to be ready to play us. They are playing the team at the top of the league, so your game automatically raises and we have to deal like that, like I say every week. So we are expecting a really tough afternoon on a plastic pitch against a really good team.”
The Gallagher Stadium presents an artificial surface to Cooper’s side for the first time this year. Their last matchday outing on such a surface came in a 1-0 win at Eastbourne Borough just before Christmas.
Cooper said: “We won’t change the way we play in terms of how we are in and out of possession, but the speed of the ball moves differently. There’s no regulation, so Eastbourne’s pitch moves differently to Maidstone’s pitch.
“That is the thing, knowing what time of plastic it is because there is no regulation in the National League, so it can be difficult. But there’s no excuses, we will train on our 3G surface tomorrow (Friday) and let them have blast on that and get used to it.”
Asked for his opinion on the surfaces, he added: “I don’t like it one bit, it’s not football for me. But we never use it as an excuse. Brian Clough said football is supposed to be played on grass, but full respect to Maidstone, they have a club to run and we will not use it as an excuse.
“Maidstone is a really good club, the chairman (Bill Williams) has been there for years, George is doing a great job with his staff, so we know it is going to be a tough game.”
In 2007-08, Cooper guided Kettering Town to the title in National League North, winning the league by 17 points, and he admits he saw some similarities between that side and his Glovers.
He said: “I see a similarity in the camaraderie and the strength of the group, but we have a completely different way of playing to that team.
“Then I had a team of absolute monsters that were physically horrible to play against, I think we are more horrible to play against in a technical and tactical way. But I see similarities in the closeness of the group definitely.”
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