Loughborough University 1 Coventry Sphinx 1 – The future is most definitely bright!

Loughborough was the destination today as we travelled to one of the best facilities in the league to take on the university side with a reputation for playing quick passing football. The pitch looked in excellent condition and it was sure to suit Sphinx’s passing game. A couple of enforced changes for the Manager Luke Hopkins as he was forced to replace the suspended midfielder Kyle Baxter and striker Nic Evangelinos who returned to university in Manchester last week. Baxter was replaced by moving Jack Rooney into midfield and he in turn was replaced at right back by 16 year old Jack Downes. Jack Downes has been performing well for the Youth team in a midfield role so it was a surprise to see him get his chance at right back. Having said that, I understand he has played at right back in his junior football days so it wasn’t a totally unfamiliar position to him. Evangelinos was replaced by Jacob Dodds who is another who has taken his chance in the first team after performing well for the Youth team. What was already a young team had become even younger and that resulted in the outfield ten having an average age of 19 for today’s match.

Sphinx started the game well as they were clearly enjoying playing on such a good surface. They were knocking it around beautifully as they probed for an opening in the home sides defence. Sphinx looked well organised in defence as they persistently caught Loughborough’s strikers offside with the biggest culprit being Ogonfunmi. On the one occasion Ogonfunmi broke through he was wasteful with a wild shot when well placed. Sphinx were having plenty of the ball and midway through the half they were starting to convert the possession into chances. Some good build up play saw Luke Downes shoot from the edge of the box to force a decent save from Halstead in the Loughborough goal and minutes later Cain cut in to unleash a powerful curling effort that the keeper did very well to get to. The resulting corner was met by Rooney but his header was comfortably dealt with by Halstead. Sphinx were starting to dominate the game and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 28th minute. A rare long ball from Sphinx saw Jacob Dodds in pursuit, the keeper was favourite to get there first as he came out of his area but he made an awful mess of his clearance to leave DODDS to side foot a volley into the bottom corner to give Sphinx a well deserved lead. That was Dodds 3rd goal for Coventry Sphinx and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come for the young man. The goal didn’t really change the course of the game as Sphinx continued to pass the ball around with style and Loughborough were limited in their forward forays.


Loughborough came out for the second half looking determined to get back into the game and there was certainly a more even feel to proceedings in the early minutes of the half. Just 7 minutes in and Cain surged into the box to be promptly brought down and Sphinx were awarded a penalty and a golden chance to extend their lead. Cain stepped up to take it but the keeper blocked it and the rebound was cleared away to keep the score at 1-0 to the Sphinx.  A squandered chance that was to come back to haunt the visitors. The penalty save seemed to give Loughborough more belief but the next chance fell to the Sphinx after a strong run from Downie led to Dodds thumping in a shot that was well saved. A minute later, Cain was played in down the right after another excellent ball down the line from right back Jack Downes and his cross found Downie who couldn’t find enough power to trouble the home sides defence. Sphinx were looking good for another goal but Loughborough came close to equalising as O’Neill saved well. Dodds soon played in Cain down the right and Cain cut in to shoot over when well placed. Loughborough were looking more of a threat when they got the ball now and a fierce shot from Ogonfunmi crashed against the post. O’Neill appeared to get fingertips to it and if he did then it was a brilliant save from him. Minutes later Loughborough got the equaliser as Andrew Bridge beat the offside trap in the 65th minute to slide home under the exposed O’Neill. A disappointing goal to concede after playing so well but still plenty of time to find the winner. Manager Luke Hopkins responded with a positive change as he introduced Youth striker Kyle Carey in place of midfielder Jack Rooney. Within ten minutes Carey got away his first shot from distance but it went well wide of the goal. He was looking comfortable at this level however and it was good to see another youngster getting his chance. Carey then received a fine pass from Jack Downes to set up Cain and his shot was then deflected for a corner. Time was running out as Dainty headed Dodds corner just wide of the post and that was to be the last serious chance of the match. Sphinx will feel they did enough to win the match and it could have been a different story had they converted the penalty when leading 1-0. Overall they played well and it was certainly an enjoyable game to watch.



I have to give credit to goalkeeper Carl O’Neill for his performance today. A couple of recent mistakes would have got to lesser men but he was in good form today as he kept his defence on their toes and dealt with whatever was thrown at him. There was nothing he could do about the goal and it was pleasing to see him back to his best. 16 year old Jack Downes was starting just his third game for the first team and was asked to a job at right back today. He was quite frankly outstanding and I have never seen such a composed and classy performance from one so young. He certainly has a bright future ahead of him and I sincerely hope I get to see his development at Coventry Sphinx. His older brother Luke Downes gave us another good solid performance in the centre of midfield and he never stops running in his search for an opening in the opposition defence. He is developing a real consistency to his game and is an important part of the team. My Man of the Match today goes to Jacob Dodds. He worked his socks off defensively to protect his full back and was a real threat going forward with his pace and enthusiasm. Both those qualities got him his goal and he is starting to look the part at this level.


Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:

Monday January 19th HOME 7.45pm kick off v QUORN



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