Swindon Town Boss Mark Cooper was left visibly heartbroken as he was left to rue his side’s poor defensive showing in their 4-0 Play-Off Final thumping at the hands of Preston North End this evening.
Town endured the worst possible start to the 2014/15 League One season finale at Wembley as Jermaine Beckford notched with just two minutes on the clock, and that early setback was compounded after skipper Nathan Thompson was forced off shortly after with a hamstring injury.
To add insult to injury, Paul Huntington’s glanced header doubled Preston’s advantage and they took a huge lead in at the break after the impressive Beckford added his second of the afternoon on the stroke of half-time.
Town failed to improve after the interval as North End looked for more goals, a wish they were granted just shy of the hour mark as Beckford burst clean through on goal before calmly slotting home to complete his hat-trick.
Whilst Preston were jubilant as they celebrated a long-awaited return to the Championship, Town were left dejected following a third Wembley loss in five years and Cooper now faces a major rebuilding job over the summer with many of his stars now expected to move onto pastures new.
“We didn’t deal with Joe Garner and Jermaine Beckford – plain and simple,” Cooper told members of the press in the wake of the game.
“I think everyone can see that – we didn’t deal with them and if you don’t do that, then you are going to have a difficult afternoon on your hands.
“If the ball comes in your box and you don’t want to head it and you don’t want to compete, then you’re in trouble.
“If people don’t want to head it and deal with the physical presence, then you are in trouble.
“I don’t think they did (when asked if his side had suffered stage fright) – I think you’ve got to give credit to Preston – I thought they were excellent and sometimes you’ve got to hold your hands up.
“You can look for every excuse in the world but today we weren’t good enough.
“Preston were very, very good so let’s give them a bit of credit.”
Town were forced to endure a string of major knocks early on as Preston’s opening two goals came either side of Nathan Thompson’s forced withdrawal, a loss Cooper knows took its toll on his team.
“You don’t want to lose your captain. He’s been a brilliant leader for us this year and it knocked us out of our stride, but we won’t use that as an excuse,” added Cooper.
“Preston were too good for us on the day.”