A trip north up the M1 today for Coventry Sphinx for a Midland Football League Premier Division clash with Long Eaton Utd. Long Eaton are unbeaten so far this season and while Sphinx have started with a strong home record they have suffered defeat in their only away game. Another testing match on the cards today then but one that Sphinx would have been optimistic of getting a result from. A friendly welcome awaited us on arrival at the recently renovated clubhouse which is a really nice facility for this level of football.
Sphinx boss Luke Hopkins selected a strong looking side with Jamie Coleman returning from injury slotting in at left back, Ashley Cain replacing the unfortunate Chris Gumery in attack and experienced number one keeper Carl O’Neill returning in goal. A mild and dry summer’s day with a light breeze made the conditions perfect for football. We were underway and it was Long Eaton who were fastest out of the blocks and they had the better of the early exchanges. The best of their chances in the opening minutes came from some decent possession around the box which resulted in them sending a shot over the bar from the penalty spot. Sphinx soon got themselves into the game and won themselves a corner. An excellent delivery from Ashley Cain was met by a soaring Ashley Jackson but his powerful downward header was cleared off the line. Sphinx were improving as the game progressed and around the half hour mark they had a good spell of play. Initially Cain was played in down the left and his cross shot went just wide of the far post but not wide enough to allow the incoming Rickie Cutting to get on the end of it. Shortly after Sphinx won a free kick which was sent into the box by Cain. Again Jackson rose to knock in a looping header that was smartly tipped over the bar by the Long Eaton keeper O’Brien. Just a minute later more good play from Sphinx ended with Luke Downes hitting a dipping volley just over the bar. Long Eaton had started the better of the two sides but Sphinx were really growing into the game now. Long Eaton were a threat going forward themselves which made it a good game to watch. Half Time was fast approaching but there was still time for Long Eaton to threaten the Sphinx goal. A Long Eaton striker found himself bearing down on goal with only the keeper to beat but O’Neill spread himself superbly to deny him with his legs. That was the last real chance of the half and we went into the break with the deadlock still surprisingly in place.
HALF TIME: LONG EATON 0 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
Long Eaton were again the fastest out of the blocks and within minutes of the restart they were forcing another good save from Sphinx keeper Carl O’Neill. Long Eaton winger Blair Anderson was having a fine game and left the Sphinx right back for dead before cutting inside to test the keeper. Then another one on one was dealt with by O’Neill to keep the scores level. Sphinx were soon back on the front foot after great work from Cain on the right. He beat his man before sending over a cross that Cutting met but he was squeezed out by the home sides defence. Soon after this Sphinx got a free kick which found itself at the feet of Luke Downes on the edge of the box who drove the ball at goal only to see the keeper brilliantly tip it over. A period of Long Eaton pressure followed with O’Neill diving low to his right to push away a header. A goal was soon to come however and after good work from Long Eaton the ball was tapped into an empty net by Theo Smith. It had taken 60 minutes to break the deadlock and it was a surprise it took so long with both sides looking well capable of scoring. Long Eaton Utd 1 Coventry Sphinx 0. Almost immediately after the goal Sphinx Manager Luke Hopkins made a positive substitution by replacing left back Coleman with a striker. Gumery took his place at centre forward and was supported by Cain and Cutting as the formation changed to 4-4-3. Gumery made an impact straight away and was holding up the ball well. Sphinx were pushing for the equaliser and Cutting broke clear down the left to deliver a cross for the incoming Cain who was inches away from getting on the end of it. Skipper Jackson produced an overhead kick that went just wide as the game really started to open up. Sphinx were pressing for an equaliser but Long Eaton were taking advantage of the extra space they were getting resulting in the game becoming end to end. 16 year old midfielder Jack Downes came on for his brother Luke in the last 15 minutes and produced some moments of quality that showed us why the Sphinx manager was keen to get him involved. Despite their efforts Sphinx could not find the equaliser they were looking for and Long Eaton took the three points. There could have been far more goals in this game but the fact the game ended with just the one goal takes nothing away from the entertainment.
FULL TIME: LONG EATON UNITED 1 COVENTRY SPHINX 0 Attendance: 71
photo courtesy of Stephen Reg Cave
Man of the Match:
Two players stood out for their work rate and are worth a mention. Rickie Cutting was his usual self up front by always grafting hard in the search for a breakthrough and Kyle Baxter in put in a good shift in the centre of midfield. Gumery showed his qualities in leading the line when he came off the bench too but my Man of the Match goes to goalkeeper Carl O’Neill who pulled off some excellent saves and commanded his defence well.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: O’NEILL, TAYLOR, COLEMAN, ROONEY, WILKS, JACKSON (c), BAXTER, L.DOWNES, CAIN, DAINTY, CUTTING
Substitutes: GUMERY (on for Coleman 62 mins), J.DOWNES (on for L.Downes 78 mins), DOWNIE (on for Jackson 81 mins)
LONG EATON UTD TEAM: O’BRIEN, ROAFA, SUMMERFIELD, ALLEN, RICKFOLD (c), PALMER, WATKISS, CORRIGAN, FELL, HOLLIS, ANDERSON
Substitutes: SMITH, COOPER-RICHARDS, BURTON, JENKINS, HANKEY
FORTHCOMING COVENTRY SPHINX FIXTURES:
HOME KIRBY MUXLOE Mon Aug 25th 3pm
HOME BEDWORTH UTD Sat Aug 30th 3pm
#UPTHESPHINX #UTS #12THMAN