Mark Cooper believes Barrow AFC can reap the rewards from showing patience over Robbie Gotts’ comeback.

The former Leeds United man made his first start for three weeks in the Bluebirds’ draw with Stevenage last weekend.

It followed a stop-start spell for the 22-year-old as he battled back from a groin injury.

Manager Cooper admitted Gotts had previously paid the price for returning too soon.

A more cautious approach since then has seen the midfielder back in the ranks with a sub outing at Hartlepool United last week before his return to the XI last time out.

Cooper included Gotts alongside the returning John Rooney in the Holker Street game.

The manager said: “It’s been really frustrating for him.

“He tried to come back a bit too early, desperate to play, and has not been right. We’ve left it longer [this time] and got him right, and you could tell.

“He has such a low centre of gravity, he can go past people as if they’re not there, and that causes problems for the opposition.”

Cooper’s side are now preparing for the long trip to fourth-placed Exeter City hoping to preserve or extend their five-point safety gap.

The manager was encouraged by what he saw from his players in last weekend’s goalless draw.

He said that, despite the ten-man Bluebirds failing to find the net, much of their performance reflected what he wants to see from his team over the closing stages of the season.

“We tried to play. That’s how I want to play,” Cooper told the BBC.

“At times you are going to give the ball away and fans will get frustrated when you give it away in good areas.

“But it gives you so much more. I thought we played really well.”