Saturday April 26th was the last fixture of the season for Coventry Sphinx and the long trip to Hereford was worth it in entertainment value alone! A warm welcome awaited us at Westfields Football Club in Hereford. A friendly bunch of club officials and a very smart little ground in attractive surroundings so I would certainly recommend a visit.
Sphinx came into the game after a disappointing home defeat to Coleshill and with some key players unavailable. In the build up to the game I sensed they were keen to finish the season on a high so I was eagerly awaiting the team news. As expected, player of the season contender Ricky Fletcher was unavailable at centre back and striker Luke Williams was absent too. Sphinx manager Luke Hopkins made six changes to the team that were beaten by Coleshill. Experienced keeper Carl O’Neill returned to the side, Muldoon and Hill replaced full backs Fowler and Drake, Sullivan filled in at centre back for Ricky Fletcher, skipper Ash Jackson returned to centre midfield in place of Baxter and finally Gio Dainty started out wide instead of Jackson Downie. Plenty of changes to the side today and not totally unexpected.
The weather was perfect for playing and watching football and 6 minutes into the game the first chance fell to Westfields which Sphinx keeper O’Neill dealt with comfortably. Shortly after this, a great through ball from the Sphinx midfield saw Luke Downes released through the inside right channel. He made no mistake with his finish as he struck a tremendous low drive into the far corner to give Sphinx an early lead. A great start for Sphinx but there were chances at both ends and in the 12th minute O’Neill was called into action to pull off a good save to keep the score at 1-0 to the Sphinx. Luke Downes again tested the opposition keeper with a long range shot but with 19 minutes on the clock Westfields equalised. A cross came in from the left which was headed home from close range at the far post. An open game so far and there could be no complaints at the entertainment on offer. Minutes after the equaliser O’Neill produced a brilliant save and from the resulting corner a Westfields shot clipped the bar. Sphinx could breath again and promptly went up the other end to get a chance of their own. Ashley Cain produced a terrific cross from the right which Dainty headed on target but the keeper dealt with it with ease. Back to the other end and a chance for Westfields after their striker was left with a one on one with the keeper. Again O’Neill dealt with it by closing down the angles, making himself big and deflecting the shot to safety. Minutes later another save from the Sphinx keeper was required and the resulting corner saw Westfields shoot over the bar. After such a good start, Sphinx were happy to hear the half time whistle go with the scores level at 1-1. The first half was an entertaining match with chances for both sides in an open contest.
Five minutes into the second half and Westfields were in front. Keeper O’Neill was left exposed and the ball was curled emphatically into the net to put Westfields 2-1 up. Disappointing start to the half but Sphinx had shown more than enough to be confident of getting back into the game. Minutes after the goal, Sphinx centre back Wilks was outpaced by the striker and brought him down on the edge of the box. The free kick was well hit but came to nothing so an escape for Sphinx there. Manager Luke Hopkins now felt the time was right for a change so right back Muldoon left the field to be replaced by young midfielder Jackson Downie. Sphinx now appeared to be playing three at the back with Cain moving into a more central attacking position. Just 3 minutes after the change Sphinx were back in the game with a goal from the hard working striker Rickie Cutting. Cutting gained possession of the ball and was in a position to the right of the penalty area. He had a defender breathing down his neck and the keeper also came out to meet Cutting near the by-line. Sheer determination saw Cutting emerge from the attention of the two players to strike the ball into an empty net from a tight angle. If ever there was an example of a never say die attitude then that was it from Cutting. 2-2 after 61 minutes and the game was there for either team to win. Another chance for Dainty was saved before O’Neill made another save in the Sphinx goal. End to end stuff providing great entertainment to the crowd. Sphinx started to get slightly on top and were getting the better of the chances now. A defensive error saw Cain get an opportunity but his shot went over and captain Jackson produced a pile driver from outside the box that the Westfields keeper did well to get behind. Time was running out for a winner from either team but in the 87th minute Sphinx did just that. Dainty forced a mistake on the left near the corner flag, he cut inside and found Ashley Cain who fired home to make it 3-2 to the Sphinx with just minutes to go. Westfields weren’t finished however and set about putting the Sphinx goal under pressure in search of an equaliser. Two minutes into injury time they got what they were looking for as they struck the ball in to equalise. An immensely entertaining game ended as a 3-3 draw and the scoreline certainly summed up the match. Fantastic stuff to end the season although after being so close to taking the three points it was clearly a disappointment not to win.
The result saw Coventry Sphinx end the season in 7th place in the Midland Alliance table. After last seasons 14th place finish that can be considered to be a good improvement. With the youthful look to the team and the Sphinx youth teams producing more players looking to step up to the first team squad, the future of the club looks very bright indeed. Of course all of this progression on the pitch needs to be backed up with people through the turnstiles. This season has seen an increase in average attendances of 110% at Sphinx Drive. I have bought my first Sphinx season ticket already and I would urge the locals to start backing your local team who will not let you down in terms of attitude, entertainment and ability.
For season ticket, sponsorship and advertising information contact Coventry Sphinx on Sharon@coventrysphinx.co.uk
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: 1. O’NEILL 2. MULDOON 3. HILL 4. BILIC 5. SULLIVAN 6. JACKSON 7. CAIN 8. CUTTING 9. WILKS 10. DOWNES 11. DAINTY
Substitutes: Jack Wilkins, Jackson Downie, Jacob Dodds
Until next season #UPTHESPHINX #UTS