Saturday March 1st saw Coventry Sphinx go on their travels to Dunkirk and with a beautiful sunny day before me I decided to follow them to Nottingham to watch this Midland Alliance clash. I was expecting a close game with Sphinx having an average away record and Dunkirk towards the wrong end of the table and really needing the points.
I arrived at the ground half an hour before kick off and after a quick visit to the clubhouse I made my way through the turnstiles and picked up a programme for the grand total of just £6. A bargain in anyone’s eyes! I took my place at the side of the pitch in the sunshine and eagerly awaited the match to start.
The match got underway with Sphinx immediately getting on the front foot and trying to put an early mark on the game. Sphinx dominated the early part of the game and it only looked a matter of time before they scored. Sphinx were having plenty of chances with Rickie Cutting getting clear of the Dunkirk defence on a few occasions and Ashley Cain looking a threat on the wing but Dunkirk had the odd chance of their own with Sphinx keeper Carl O’Neill called into action to prevent Dunkirk scoring against the run of play. The first half was drawing to a close and it was hard to believe such an entertaining game was still goalless. Just as I was expecting the half time whistle to go, up popped Rickie Cutting who had been put through on goal. With just the keeper to beat Cutting lobbed him to put Sphinx 1-0 up to continue his remarkable goal scoring form.
Sphinx went into the break a goal up and perhaps disappointed that it wasn’t a bigger lead. Dunkirk however were perhaps fortunate to only be a goal down and still in the match. Sphinx had played well and Dunkirk had been poor. Surely Dunkirk were not as poor as the first half had shown and I was expecting the second half to be a tougher test for Sphinx.
The second half began with Dunkirk on the front foot and that’s exactly how the half continued with Dunkirk dominating the game just as Sphinx had dominated the game in the first half. Sphinx were still getting chances but it was Dunkirk who were looking most likely to score. Dunkirk were a different team in the second half and I can only assume their manager’s half time team talk influenced that. Sphinx were struggling to get their goalscorer Rickie Cutting into the game. Sphinx had success in the first half with some direct football but the direct ball just wasn’t working for them this half with this resulting in Dunkirk constantly coming back at them and at times putting Sphinx under severe pressure. In all fairness to Sphinx, with the pressure they were under at times it was totally understandable they were just clearing their lines. The pitch was in decent condition but very bobbly in places so it was tricky to play a passing game. Sphinx needed to retain possession better though in order to take the sting out of the game but they were unable to achieve sustained spells of possession. It was looking like the only solution was for Sphinx to score another goal because it was looking inevitable with Dunkirk’s rising confidence that they would score at some point.
As the game was moving into the last 15 minutes and the score was still 1-0 to the Sphinx I was getting more hopeful of holding on for the win but Sphinx would have to dig deep and show some real character and desire to secure the three points. That was exactly what they did. Sphinx will have played better than they did in the second half today but what they lacked in their play was more than made up for with their character, desire and team spirit. This was three points picked up away from home the hard way. While Dunkirk will probably feel they deserved something from the game it was a big win for Sphinx because when the going got tough they dug deep and got the clean sheet, and can come away knowing that they can get results even if they are not at their best.
Credit to the Sphinx keeper and his defence for keeping a clean sheet they were made to work hard for and Ash Jackson in midfield who put in a captains performance not just in the way he played but the leadership he showed. Sphinx are a young team and leadership is an important quality which I thought Matt Fowler showed well playing at left back today and also played some great balls down the line going forward so, for that reason, Fowler gets my ‘Man of the Match’. A tough one to call today but for me Fowler just edged it.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM 1 O’NEILL, 2 SULLIVAN, 3 FOWLER, 4 WILKS, 5 FLETCHER, 6 JACKSON (c), 7 CAIN, 8 CUTTING, 9 WILLIAMS, 10 DOWNIE, 11 DOWNES SUBS: DAINTY (on for Downes 63 mins), RHODES, BAXTER, GALDINS
Upcoming Coventry Sphinx fixtures:
AFC WULFRUNIANS Away Tuesday March 4th (7.45pm kick off)
ROCESTER HOME Saturday March 8th (3.00pm kick off)
BOLDMERE ST MICHAELS HOME Monday March 10th (7.45pm kick off)
UP THE SPHINX!