Swindon want rested Luongo 'tip top' for playoffs

Swindon Town boss Mark Cooper has confirmed Socceroo Massimo Luongo is still battling a groin complaint but wants him in ‘tip top condition’ for the League One playoffs.

Luongo was rested overnight as Swindon drew 3-3 with Walsall, all but confirming they would have to earn promotion via the playoffs.

The Australian’s initial return following the Asian Cup saw him score three goals in three games for Town but he has dropped off in recent weeks, having not scored in his past nine appearances.

The situation prompted some suggestions he has his eye on his next move following links with a host of Premier League clubs, but Cooper insisted it was injury related.

Cooper said last month that Luongo was still troubled by a groin problem from the Asian Cup and confirmed that’s why he was left out overnight.

“It’s a little bit of a restriction to him, so he’s not fully able to let himself go 100 per cent in terms of sprinting,” Cooper told Total Sport.

“It makes sense now to give him the option (to rest) ahead of the playoffs.”

Only last week, Luongo was watched by Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood, who is a keen admirer of the Sydney-born talent and previously worked with him at Tottenham.

Luongo, 22, has been linked with the likes of Villa, Crystal Palace, QPR and West Ham since his sensational performances at the 2015 Asian Cup where he won the tournament’s MVP award and scored in the final.

On Luongo’s form, Cooper added: “It depends who you listen to. If you listen to some, he’s not been trying and he’s got his eyes on passages new.

“We’ve known within the group that that’s not right. He deserves the opportunity to be able to make sure he’s in tip top condition ahead of the playoffs.”

Elsewhere, Socceroos defender Bailey Wright played a full game as Preston North End took another step towards automatic promotion overnight.

Wright’s Lilywhites defeated Notts County 3-1 on the road to solidify their grip on second spot, holding a one-point buffer on third-placed MK Dons with two games to play.

Fellow Australian Neil Kilkenny was an 80th minute substitute for Preston.

Down the other end of the table, Aussies Alex Cisak and Shane Lowry put in full shifts as Leyton Orient’s relegation concerns worsened after a 1-0 loss at Rochdale.

Orient haven’t won in five games and are two points from safety with two games to play, against playoffs-bound pair Sheffield United and Swindon.