Both sides arrived at the game in good goal scoring form but no one would have predicted the score we finished with today. After heavy overnight rain we arrived to a wet looking Kirby Muxloe but with the pitch looking perfectly playable. The referee didn’t look so sure and after a long drawn out pitch inspection he eventually made a decision that the game could go ahead. This early indecisiveness was a sign of things to come I’m afraid. After Coventry Sphinx’s impressive 4-0 win at Alvechurch on Boxing Day, it was no surprise that manager Luke Hopkins named an unchanged side for this match.
Any early concerns about the pitch soon disappeared as it was clearly playable despite being heavy in places. Sphinx started in confident mood and didn’t allow the conditions to knock them out of their usual style of passing football. Within the first five minutes Ashley Cain was testing the Kirby keeper with a curling shot that Butlin pushed past the post. Sphinx were having slightly more of the play and restricting Kirby to counter attacking. Downie won Sphinx a free kick on the edge of the box with his quick feet but Cain’s effort was put out for a corner by Butlin. A bright start from the visitors and Evangelinos was the next to threaten as he got in behind the Kirby defence to win another corner. Sphinx really needed to score during this good spell and they were almost punished when Kirby broke forward with a good ball in behind the full back to feed Bahrey and he went on to force a good save from O’Neill in the Sphinx goal. Just a minute later, Sphinx were punished for a sloppy bit of play. Sphinx had a throw-in deep in their own half, were dispossessed and the ball soon found it’s way into the box where Bahrey tucked away the opening goal. 1-0 to Kirby after 26 minutes but against the run of play so no reason for Coventry Sphinx to lose heart at this stage. The game settled down into an even contest after the goal before Cain cut in from the left to shoot but his weak shot was easily dealt with by the keeper. Kirby went straight up the other end to cross from the right and they somehow contrived to put the ball over the bar from a few yards out. A lucky escape for Sphinx but they responded with a driving run by Rooney from right back that saw his fierce shot saved at the near post. The next real action saw Sphinx picking the ball out of their net again as a Seal shot was fumbled by O’Neill and the ball went on to trickle over the line. 2-0 to Kirby after 40 minutes was not a fair reflection of the game and both goals were avoidable. Kirby had taken advantage of their opportunities and went into the break two goals to the good.
HALF TIME: KIRBY MUXLOE 2 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
Sphinx had played well in the first half despite the score and would be well in this game if they could get the next goal. In the 49th minute a cross from Cain fell to Dainty who tried to skip past two defenders who blocked him off but that resulted in Evangelinos producing a cracking shot that was saved by the Kirby keeper. The Kirby response was immediate as Bahrey collected the ball wide on the left, looked up in plenty of place and delivered a cross that sailed straight over the keepers head into the top corner. An unfortunate goal to concede but that left Sphinx 3-0 down after 50 minutes and no doubt asking themselves how that score line had happened after playing reasonably well so far. A lot of teams would have accepted defeat at this stage but Coventry Sphinx have more about them than that and within a minute they had a lifeline as they pulled a goal back. Cain delivered a superb cross from the right and EVANGELINOS leapt to head the ball into the net via a defender. Kirby 3 Sphinx 1 and Sphinx still looking capable of getting back into the match. Gio Dainty was getting forward from left back at every opportunity and one of his crosses was met by midfielder Newton but his header was saved with ease as Sphinx looked for their second goal. That was to be Newton’s last meaningful contribution as Sphinx manager Luke Hopkins went for broke in an effort to get back into the game. Ricky Fletcher came off the bench to slot in at centre back in what was now to be a three man defence (Taylor, Fletcher, Rooney) as Wilks was pushed up to play centre forward. A bold move that was added to when defensive midfielder Baxter was replaced by winger Jacob Dodds. The boldness of the manager was soon rewarded when some superb quick passing put EVANGELINOS through on the left of the box where he came up with a fine finish to reduce the deficit to one goal. Kirby Muxloe 3 Coventry Sphinx 2 with 72 minutes played and the momentum seemingly with Sphinx. Two minutes later we had some controversy as Kirby restored their two goal advantage. Big claims for handball were ignored by the referee as a Kirby player appeared to control the ball with his arm before the ball found it’s way into the net. 4-2 Kirby was to be 5-2 Kirby within a minute as they took advantage of the Sphinx players still feeling wronged by their ignored handball claims. Two goals in a minute for Reeve to give Kirby a 5-2 lead with just 15 minutes to go was surely game over. Coventry Sphinx were in no mood to lie down and accept defeat and showed tremendous character to keep at it. In the 86th minute we had yet more controversy as Sphinx were awarded a stonewall penalty which CAIN stepped up to tuck away to make it 5-3. Picture the scene with Evangelinos travelling towards the centre of goal with the ball under control, well inside the penalty area, with just the keeper to beat, then a chasing defender brings him down from behind without getting close to the ball. The referee rightly gives the easiest penalty decision he’s ever likely to give but inexplicably decides it wasn’t a clear goal-scoring opportunity and fails to produce the obvious Red Card. Just to compound the error, he didn’t even book the defender. Sphinx kept on going and in the 90th minute they reduced Kirby’s lead to just one goal. EVANGELINOS was the man in the right place again as he claimed his hat-trick. Sphinx continued to pile pressure on the Kirby goal as they searched for a sensational equaliser. A series of corners in added time saw Sphinx keeper O’Neill in the thick of the action as he came forward to force the keeper into a save and even took one of the corners himself! A breathless end to the game as Sphinx forced Kirby to hold on for the three points despite the hosts holding a three goal lead at two different stages of the game. A defeat in the end for Sphinx but plenty of positives to take from the match all the same. Four goals scored away from home and a never say die attitude to highlight the character of these lads for a start.
FULL TIME: KIRBY MUXLOE 5 COVENTRY SPHINX 4
MAN OF THE MATCH: Nic Evangelinos
A clear Man of the Match today as Evangelinos bagged himself a hat-trick. He finished well and got involved with the play well too. Cain saw plenty of the ball and got himself into shooting positions as well as delivering some good crosses. Dainty got forward really well from left back and Luke Downes gave us another decent performance.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: O’NEILL, ROONEY, DAINTY, BAXTER (Dodds 70 mins), WILKS, TAYLOR, NEWTON (63 Fletcher 63 mins), DOWNIE, EVANGELINOS, L.DOWNES, CAIN
Next Coventry Sphinx fixture: Saturday January 10th HOME WALSALL WOOD 3 pm kick off
#UTS #UPTHESPHINX #12THMAN