Back to Sphinx Drive just two days after the last home match to face a Stourport side just one place below Sphinx. Given the league positions of the teams I was expecting a tight match this afternoon and that’s just how it turned out. I arrived at the ground with some other displaced Coventry City fans and we made our way into a busy clubhouse. A drink, a chat and some football on the TV gave us a welcome break from the heavy downpours on the way to the ground.
The skies cleared to give us welcome sunshine just as the match kicked off. There were two changes to the Sphinx team from Thursdays game with Cain and Williams returning to replace Galdins and Dainty. My initial impressions of Stourport were they appeared to be a strong, well organised team who Sphinx would need to play well against to get something from the match. Sphinx started the match well and their lively start had me anticipating a goal. The enthusiastic home support got just what they wanted when DOWNES smashed one into the back of the net in the 31st minute! A goal was just reward for their start to the match but Stourport were well in this match and Sphinx keeper O’Neill was called into action to produce a fine save before half time. Sphinx saw out the half to go into the break with a one goal advantage and allowed me to enjoy my half time break in the sunshine in front of the pitch-side cafe.
The second half started with an immediate substitution seeing Jackson Downie replace Luke Downes who appeared to have a hamstring problem. Shortly into the second half, Stourport got the equaliser with a smart finish which stunned the home support as there was a suspicion of offside but the goal stood and with 53 minutes gone the score stood at 1-1. Shortly after the goal there was a brief melee near the dugouts which was nothing more than handbags really but the referee saw fit to bring out his book. The referee called Ashley Cain over to him and was about to produce the yellow card when Cain walked towards him appearing to sarcastically applaud him so the referee promptly showed him two yellow cards in quick succession and then the red card to bring Cain’s afternoon to an abrupt end. I felt the referee could quite easily have dealt with the situation without the need for a yellow card, never mind a red but the decision was made and Sphinx were left to play the majority of the second half with ten men. To even claim a point from this game now, Sphinx were going to have to show some real character and team spirit. Shortly after the sending off the Sphinx management made a positive change by bringing on the more attack minded Dainty for left back Hill. Sphinx had been playing well but the red card seemed to galvanise them. They stepped up their work-rate another gear and they played with the belief they could still win this match. I can’t tell you how much I was impressed by the players reaction to being reduced to ten men. They displayed tenacity, desire, determination and ability in equal measure and you would never have known they were a man down for the majority of the second half. Sphinx had the chances to win this as the half went on but it just wasn’t to be.
The points were shared but it was an impressive performance from Sphinx today and the fans applauded the players off the pitch to show their appreciation for the players performance. The defence operated well as a unit, as I’ve come to expect, with the always reliable Sullivan deserving a mention for his consistency at right back. The midfield worked hard to protect the defence as well as looking threatening going forward. Rickie Cutting worked his socks off up front and substitute Dainty showed some real quality going forward. My “Man of the Match” today goes to central midfielder Bilic who was everywhere today, either breaking up play in his own half or driving into the opposition box in the search for a goal. An incredibly energetic performance from someone who has only recently returned from injury and he showed plenty of ability too.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: 1. O’NEILL 2. SULLIVAN 3 .HILL 4. BILIC 5. FLETCHER 6. FOWLER 7. CAIN 8. JACKSON 9. CUTTING 10. WILLIAMS 11. DOWNES Substitutes: DOWNIE (on for Downes 46 mins), DAINTY (on for Hill 60 mins), WILKES (on for Williams 90 mins)
FORTHCOMING COVENTRY SPHINX FIXTURES:
HIGHGATE UNITED Tuesday 25th March Away 7.45pm kick off
GORNAL ATHLETIC Saturday 29th March HOME 3.00pm kick off
TIVIDALE Saturday 5th April Away 3.00pm kick off
WULFRUNIANS Monday 7th April HOME 7.45pm kick off