After the huge disappointment of going out of the FA Vase last weekend it was crucial that Sphinx got back on track today. Today’s visitors to Sphinx Drive were Loughborough University. Coventry Sphinx are unbeaten at home in the league and have been scoring goals for fun at Sphinx Drive. A few changes in the Sphinx line up with Ash Jackson replacing Adam Bilic in the centre of midfield and Taylor coming in at Right Back for Bishop. There was also a welcome return to the side for Ashley Cain and youngster Jack Rooney got his place back at Centre Back after playing 90 minutes for the Youth Team on Thursday evening. A significant positional change saw regular Centre Back Ash Wilks start up front which resulted in the unfortunate top scorer Chris Gumery starting on the bench. After last weekends performance, Manager Luke Hopkins had to shake things up and as well as the changes in personnel he opted for a different formation. Wilkes led the line with Galdins and Cain occupying the wide positions and Luke Downes took up a central position behind the striker.
As soon as the game got underway it rapidly became clear the Sphinx were attempting to play a more passing style of football. That was pleasing to see because the best performances I have seen from them has been as a result of a quick passing and possession based game. Both sides were keen to keep the ball on the floor where possible so it was set be an intriguing contest. Penalty area action was in short supply but in the 11th minute an excellent dribble from Luke Downes on the edge of the box led to him squaring a ball to Galdins who put his shot wide of the goal. The game continued in a cagey manner but suddenly we had a goal in the 19th minute as Loughborough’s Jack Poxon was played through on goal and he finished the chance well to give them an early lead. Sphinx had not been in the best of form recently so going a goal down was the last thing they needed. The goal gave the visitors a boost and a firm strike from Williams was kept out by Sphinx keeper O’Neill to keep the deficit down to one goal. Shortly after, a long range effort from the goalscorer Poxon was turned past the post as Loughborough looked to extend their lead. Sphinx were playing reasonably well but Loughborough were looking dangerous on the counter attack so there were certainly more goals to come in this game. On the half hour mark Sphinx came close to equalising as a corner found it’s way to Jack Rooney and his close range effort was cleared off the line. Sphinx were looking a threat from Ashley Cain’s set pieces and a deep free kick from him was met by an unmarked Kiam Galdins who headed wide when he should have hit the target at least. Sphinx were to regret those missed opportunities as Loughborough doubled their lead 5 minutes before half time. The Sphinx keeper rushed out to clear a through ball but Carpenter beat him to it and was left to pass the ball into a vacant net. Sphinx 2-0 down and with a massive task ahead of them to maintain their unbeaten home league record. Another Cain free kick found it’s target as Jackson’s header was beaten away by Howard in the Loughborough goal but there was no one there to put away the rebound. In the second minute of injury time Sphinx got the lifeline they needed as DOWNES hit home a loose ball to reduce the deficit to one goal with virtually the last kick of the half. An important goal to take them into half time as they now had a chance of getting back into the game.
HALF TIME: Coventry Sphinx 1 Loughborough University 2
The teams emerged for the second with no changes but it was immediately apparent that the Sphinx management had made some tactical adjustments. Cain was in a more central attacking role with Luke Downes now operating from the left of midfield. Sphinx were also now working as a unit to press the Loughborough team high up the pitch. Sphinx were looking much better for the tactical changes and in the 53rd minute they got their reward with a well taken equaliser. Wilks and Baxter combined to put the Loughborough defence under severe pressure on the edge of their own box and the ball fell beautifully for BAXTER who found himself with just the keeper to beat inside the box. He hit a curling effort that the keeper got a hand to but not enough to prevent it going into the net. A rare goal for Baxter but a nice finish to level the scores after being two goals down. Sphinx were looking a much better side now but Loughborough still looked well capable of scoring themselves so all to play for now. Loughborough made a double substitution on the hour and Sphinx made two of their own with Bilic and Cutting joining the play. Both the Sphinx substitutes made an impact on the game with Bilic re-energising the midfield and Cutting making a nuisance of himself with his pace. The Sphinx pressing game resulted in another chance in the 79th minute as Baxter hit a decent shot on the turn. Ten minutes to go and either team could win this so a tense end was ahead of us. A huge chance for Sphinx came and went as Cain was played through by Cutting but he shot over the bar when he will feel he should have worked the keeper at the very least. 5 minutes from the end and Sphinx dramatically took the lead for the first time in the match. Substitute CUTTING was the scorer with a fine finish through the keepers legs and Sphinx were on the verge of an impressive comeback.
While the fans were still celebrating, Sphinx wrapped up the victory with a quite brilliant counter attack goal. Cain stormed forward and got to the by-line where he looked up and picked out Luke DOWNES who hit a first time effort into the bottom corner to seal the victory. Coventry Sphinx had been 2-0 down after 40 minutes but had come back to win the game 4-2 with a display of character from the players that every single one of them should be proud of. I should also give credit to the Sphinx management who clearly had an impact on the game with their half time team talk and tactical decisions. Sphinx manager Luke Hopkins has had a difficult few weeks but his players responded for him magnificently to claim a victory that looked highly unlikely at one stage of this match.
FULL TIME: Coventry Sphinx 4 Loughborough University 2
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Some very good performances today and I’d like to give a mention to 17 year old Jack Rooney. He forced his way into the team at the start of the season and kept his place at centre back until recently when he was given a much needed rest from first team duties. He came back into the team and performed very well again. In the centre of midfield Kyle Baxter had a good game. He worked hard at regaining possession and his hard work was rewarded with his first goal of the season as well. Luke Downes was back to his goal scoring best with a quality double but my Man of the Match goes to Ashley Cain. Cain’s set piece deliveries were excellent and led to some good opportunities for his team mates and his pace and skill caused trouble to the opposition defence all afternoon.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: O’NEILL, TAYLOR, COLEMAN, BAXTER, FLETCHER, ROONEY, GALDINS, JACKSON (c) (Bilic 67 mins), WILKS ( Cutting 73 mins), L.DOWNES, CAIN. Unused Subs: Gumery, Barnett, Bishop
Next fixture for Coventry Sphinx:
Away Rocester Tuesday 14th October 7.45pm kick off
#UTS #UPTHESPHINX #12THMAN