An away trip to Nottingham to play a bottom of the table Dunkirk looked a good opportunity to pick up a rare 3 points on the road but in this highly competitive division there are no easy games as was proven today. Just two changes to the side from the previous match with youngster Jacob Dodds rested and loan striker David Blenkinsopp returning to his parent club Bedworth Utd. They were replaced by Kiam Galdins and new signing Jamie Newton. 20 year old Newton has just joined the club from Hinckley AFC and took up a position at right midfield.
After a hard overnight frost, the pitch had thawed out and was perfectly playable as we got underway on a sunny but cold afternoon. After two consecutive heavy defeats, Dunkirk didn’t start in the manner of a team low on confidence. They got stuck straight into Sphinx and certainly didn’t hold back with their challenges. The first effort on goal for Sphinx came in the opening minutes with forward Ash Wilks shot producing a comfortable save for Want in the Dunkirk goal. In the 7th minute, Dunkirk took the lead after some sloppy play from Sphinx allowed in Danny Carey Bertram who finished well past the exposed O’Neill. A poor goal to concede and just the lift the home side needed. The game was developing into a scrappy battle and this suited the home side far more than Sphinx who were really struggling to get their passing game going. Dunkirk had worked hard and were looking a threat on the break in particular but Sphinx were allowing themselves to get dragged into a physical contest. Sphinx can cope well with the physical side of things but they had lost their focus on what they are good at and that is letting their football do the talking. Dunkirk were having more of the chances but were unable to make them count and Sphinx’s best chance came from a corner that saw Fletcher’s effort well saved. Minutes later Dunkirk had a glorious chance to increase their lead but they shot straight into O’Neill’s grateful hands from close range. Dunkirk had an even better chance to increase their lead in the 33rd minute when they were awarded a clear penalty after a foul by Matt Taylor. Danny Carey Bertram stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way to give Dunkirk a two goal lead. Sphinx could have no complaints and they had a huge task ahead of them now. To their credit, despite not playing well, they stuck at it and earned themselves a free kick in a dangerous position. A fierce drive from Wilks went narrowly wide thanks to a slight deflection and the resulting corner was headed just over by Newton. Dunkirk immediately went on the attack and O’Neill was forced into two good saves with his legs within a minute. Still time for one more chance for the home side but Whalin drove his shot wide of the post. A poor first half performance from the Sphinx and they were going to need to improve rapidly to get anything from this game. A deserved lead for Dunkirk as we went into the break.
HALF TIME: DUNKIRK 2 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
The break seemed to do the trick for Sphinx as they came out with a determination to play to their strengths. Within minutes there was a dramatic improvement in their willingness to pass the ball and retain possession. Dunkirk were still looking a threat but Sphinx were looking much more like the team I am used to seeing. Dunkirk were defending with determination and chances were limited so something special may have been required to break their resistance and get back in the game. 14 minutes into the first half, Sphinx got the goal that got them back in the game and it was certainly a special goal. Dunkirk won a corner but in their desire to hold onto their lead they left a number of defenders back to take care of the one Sphinx player loitering near the half way line. The corner fell to a Sphinx player in the box and he looked up and picked out his only option who was Luke Downes near the half way line with a few Dunkirk players for company. He was on his own and expected to hold the ball up until his team mates arrived. Downes had other ideas as he turned to confront the first defender wide on the right. He beat him with good close ball control and continued to beat any defender who challenged him and entered the penalty box where he finished superbly into the corner to score an exceptional solo effort. If that is not goal of the season then we have still got a sensational strike ahead of us! Sphinx were back in the game and immediately after the goal Dodds came on to inject some pace into the Sphinx attack as they went looking for the equaliser. Chances were limited but Sphinx look a far better side when they believe in themselves and get the ball down and play. A Sphinx free kick saw Ricky Fletcher head just wide and then two 16 year olds were put on the pitch as Sphinx continued the search for a second goal. Jack Downes and Kyle Jaynes have done well in their previous time on the pitch and once again Kyle Jaynes energy up front and Jack Downes eye for a pass contributed well to the team. Jack Downes had been on the pitch for just 9 minutes when he produced the assist for the Sphinx equaliser. Some good build up play down the right resulted in Jack Downes receiving the ball out wide and with a calmness beyond his years he looked up and picked out the perfect pass to the onrushing Gio Dainty who was making rapid progress down the centre of the pitch. Dainty took on the shot with his first touch and as the ball nestled in the back of the net he was rapidly joined by his team mates to celebrate the equaliser that had come with 7 minutes of the game remaining. Sphinx had got their reward for being brave enough to play football in difficult conditions and the character they showed to come back from two goals down and a poor first half performance should not be under estimated.
FULL TIME: DUNKIRK 2 COVENTRY SPHINX 2
MAN OF THE MATCH: Luke Downes
Goalkeeper Carl O’Neill pulled off some good saves at important times and his team mates had him to thank for making the come back possible. Jack Downes was impressive in his short time on the pitch and he must be getting close to a starting place but my choice is his brother Luke. Luke Downes is maturing into a key player in this team and in the second half in particular he was the driving force in the Sphinx attacking play. Having said that, his Goal of the Season contender was the highlight of the match and I could easily have given him my Man of the Match for that solo run and finish alone.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM:
O’NEILL, ROONEY (J.Downes 74 mins), DAINTY, BAXTER, FLETCHER, TAYLOR, NEWTON, DOWNIE (Jaynes 74 mins), WILKS, L.DOWNES, GALDINS (Dodds 59 mins)
Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:
HOME – LONG EATON UTD Saturday 20th December 3pm kick off
#UTS #UPTHESPHINX #12THMAN