Coventry Sphinx returned to home soil, after a run of away games, looking to build on some recent encouraging performances. A late goal denied them a deserved point in mid week and that decent performance was reflected in Luke Hopkins team selection today. Just two changes to the starting line up today which were both enforced. Striker Rickie Cutting was unavailable and leading scorer Chris Gumery (illness) was also missing. This required regular centre back Ash Wilks to fill in up front in a lone striker role and as a result Rickie Fletcher returned to the side at centre back. The other change saw Kiam Galdins (head injury) replaced by young midfielder Jackson Downie who was returning from suspension. I wasn’t too concerned at playing with just one striker with 9 goal midfielder Luke Downes in the side. Our ever improving style of passing football could well suit a five man midfield as well. The side had a very youthful look to it again but make no mistake, these young lads have earned the right to be playing first team football with their performances. It’s also great to see a group of local lads coming through and representing their club and City so well.
Sphinx made a quick start to the game and early on Jacob Dodds showed his pace on the right wing as he surged past the full back to deliver an excellent cross that Wilks headed just over. An excellent move and a sign of things to come. Stourport quickly got a foothold in the game and their more direct style of play had Sphinx under pressure for a few minutes which they defended well. Sphinx followed this with some good football which led to a Dainty shot being saved by Bunn in the Swifts goal. Stourport went straight up the other end and crashed a shot against the bar in what was becoming an enthralling contest between two teams with contrasting styles. Rooney was the next one to threaten the Stourport goal as the keeper parried his shot away as the Sphinx midfield looked to support the striker at every opportunity. Luke Downes got in on the act with a 20 yarder that was pushed out for a corner. The corner dropped in the 6 yard box to Ash Wilks but he shot wide in a crowded goal mouth. Sphinx were pushing hard for the opening goal and the next chance came from more good work down the right from Dodds. Dodds made a good run down the wing and his first time cross was met by Jack Rooney who fired his effort over the bar. Half an hour gone and Sphinx were having the better of things but Stourport were more than capable and the Sphinx defence had to be on good form to keep them at bay. A good chance for Stourport came via a mistake from Sphinx as a square ball was intercepted in midfield. Stourport quickly broke forward and their shot resulted in a corner which was cleared thanks to some brilliant work from Jackson Downie. Downie collected the ball in the penalty area and his strong run was only stopped when he reached the half way line. That was a fine example of Sphinx’s determination to play the ball on the ground and retain possession. Dodds, recently promoted from the Youth Team, was looking a real threat. Stourport resorted to a crude attempt at bringing him down but he evaded that and continued his run. Very good play from the youngster and he is improving all the time. A thrilling game that amazingly was goal less as we went into half time. Both sides had their chances to score and Sphinx had performed very well at both ends of the pitch.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 STOURPORT SWIFTS 0
The second half got under way on a pitch that was in tremendous condition and credit must go to the Groundsman for preparing such a well used pitch so well. Both sides were competing hard and neither of them could take the control of the game in the early stages of the half. The first chance of the half came for Sphinx thanks to a good interception by Jack Rooney. He fed Jackson Downie but his powerful shot was straight at the keeper. On the hour mark, Dainty drove through the centre and laid the ball off for Rooney on the left who then cut inside and delivered a deep cross that was met by an onrushing Luke Downes. His first time shot went just over the bar but it was a fine bit of play from Sphinx. It was still hard to believe we hadn’t had a goal and manager Luke Hopkins started to make use of his substitutions in an attempt to break the deadlock. Jackson was replaced by Coleman at left back in a like for like swap. Jackson was on a yellow card and skating on thin ice so it was a wise decision from Hopkins. Two 16 year olds joined the play next in the shape of Kyle Jaynes and Jack Downes. They have both impressed in the very successful Youth Team this season and were getting more valuable first team experience. The substitutions had coincided with a period of play with few chances but Sphinx were starting to pile the pressure on the opposition goal as we entered the last ten minutes. A superb first touch from Jack Downes brought down a clearance and he fed his brother Luke who hit a shot that whistled inches wide of the post. A minute later Luke Downes was set up by Downie but this time he shot over the bar. The pressure was cranking up and a huge scramble in the Stourport box was eventually cleared. Stourport were hanging on but they almost pinched it at the end as a rare chance for them went wide of the post. Sphinx had done everything but score and despite the disappointment of not winning the game they can be proud of their performance. A team that saw 9 players under the age of 21 used today is only going to improve and they are playing an attractive style of football too. Come and see them play and you will see exactly what I mean.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 STOURPORT SWIFTS 0
MAN OF THE MATCH: MATT TAYLOR
Good performances all over the pitch today. Carl O’Neill kept a clean sheet in the Sphinx goal and was instrumental in Sphinx’s efforts to play out from the back. Bishop at right back had arguably his best game yet for Sphinx as he showed a good combination of defensive and attacking play. The three man central midfield of Rooney, Downie and Luke Downes (all teenagers) were superb. The combination of work rate, tackling, passing and skill was evident throughout. Dainty had a good game on the left as he assisted his full back and got forward to good effect too. Teenager Dodds was a real threat with his pace on the right wing and his delivery was good too. The standout players for me however were the centre backs Rickie Fletcher and Matt Taylor. They defended with determination and anticipation and their ability on the ball was the key to Sphinx’s passing game. Difficult to split the two but I’m selecting Taylor for today’s Man of the Match.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: O’NEILL, BISHOP, JACKSON (Coleman 65 mins), ROONEY, FLETCHER, TAYLOR, DODDS (J.Downes 75 mins), DOWNIE, WILKS (79 mins), L.DOWNES, DAINTY
Next Coventry Sphinx Match:
Away Boldmere St Michaels Saturday 22nd November 3pm kick off
#UTS #UPTHESPHINX #12THMAN