A cold but dry evening as we welcomed Quorn to Sphinx Drive for this league match. Early in the season Sphinx were well beaten at Quorn but the Sphinx team has evolved since then and tonight was sure to be a test of their progress. Just the one change from Sphinx manager Luke Hopkins tonight as midfielder Jamie Newton was replaced by Youth team striker Kyle Carey. He was making his first start for Sphinx after consistently impressing in the Youth team this season so it was a well deserved opportunity for him.
It was a lively start from both sides as they looked to gain the early advantage. The first good opportunity for Sphinx came as early as the 8th minute as some high intensity play around the Quorn penalty area resulted in Cain finding himself unmarked in the penalty area. Cain appeared to slip just as he hit his shot and the ball went flying over the bar. Unlucky but some good play to create the opportunity in the first place. Then out of nowhere we had the incident that was to lay the foundations for an immense effort from the Sphinx team. A Quorn striker got in behind the Sphinx defence and left back Gio Dainty felled him to prevent him running clear on goal. We feared the worst and unsurprisingly the referee reached for his Red card to dismiss Dainty and leave Sphinx to play 80 minutes with ten men. This was always going to be a tough match and the task just got bigger. Nothing came of the Quorn free kick after O’Neill saved it well and I expected he would now be in for a busy evening. Sphinx were doing well despite being a man short and Cain was the danger man again as he evaded two defenders to get a shot away that went just wide. A promising response from Sphinx but 80 minutes with a man down was a significant amount of time to achieve a result. 20 minutes in and Quorn created a chance but O’Neill was there again to save but a minute later there was nothing he could do to prevent Quorn taking the lead. Striker Brennan was the scorer as he tucked home a right wing cross to give the visitors the lead. The job was getting harder and harder for Sphinx but it’s not often you see Sphinx give up and they were playing well enough to believe they were still in this. Quorn smelled blood and successive corners from them required good saves from O’Neill on both occasions to keep the score at 1-0. Sphinx quickly recovered from the goal and were having plenty of possession and masking the fact they had ten men really well. The extra man for Quorn counted as O’Neill was called into action again but Sphinx were well in this game and were looking particularly dangerous on the counter attack. I’d be happy to reach half time with just the one goal in it and the opportunity to regroup was almost upon us. Just before the break we had an outbreak of pushing and shoving which led to the Downes brothers both receiving a yellow card but if anyone was in any doubt as to whether Sphinx were up for the challenge this removed it.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 QUORN 1
Luke Hopkins made an immediate change as he sent on club captain Ash Jackson. Jackson was not fit but needs must and he took his place in the centre of defence which saw Matt Taylor move across to right back. Jackson was exactly what was required in this situation as his tough tackling and leadership were evident immediately. Sphinx were grafting hard and were playing some good stuff when the chances came but O’Neill had to be in good form too. O’neill dived bravely at the strikers feet to snuff out a Quorn attack and the longer the game went on the more belief Sphinx had in getting a result. It was great to watch as Sphinx were grinding Quorn down and getting more and more of the play. Quorn started to defend deeper and their full backs stayed firmly in defence as they appeared to be trying to hold on for the 1-0 win. I was expecting Sphinx to run out of steam but they dug in and found the extra energy from somewhere and were looking the stronger side now. The crowd could sense the tide was turning and were urging their team on to get the goal they had fully deserved. Time was running out but Sphinx hadn’t given up and they still believed there was a goal there for them. Ten minutes to go and the Sphinx management introduced two young strikers in their last attempt to get something from the game. In the 81st minute Aaron Opoku came on for his Sphinx debut and in the 84th minute 16 year old Kyle Jaynes came on. Sphinx were going all out, Quorn were hanging on desperately at times and in the 85th minute the goal that Sphinx were after arrived. A thunderous strike from Luke Downes on the edge of the area could only be parried by the Quorn keeper and the rebound fell at the feet of Jaynes who was unmarked in the penalty area. Cool as you like, JAYNES put the ball past the exposed keeper and the jubilation amongst the players and fans was clear!
A stunning effort from the ten men of Sphinx that got it’s rewards. Just five minutes to go and Sphinx believed they could win this now. Luke Downes was cynically brought down on the edge of the box as he surged towards goal and this resulted in a 90th minute free kick. Cain and Jackson stood over it and it was Jackson who struck it sweetly as it agonisingly crashed against the bar and bounced down on the line. Inches away from a remarkable victory against the odds but a magnificent performance to claim a hugely deserved point all the same. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that these young lads are making me proud. Tonight this young team demonstrated spirit, graft, togetherness and ability in bucket loads and I can’t wait to see them play again.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Carl O’Neill
Quality performances all over the pitch and I could have made a case for any one of the players. Cain worked hard to occupy the visitors defence and his set piece delivery was excellent. Luke Downes was superb in the centre of midfield and his younger brother Jack let nobody down. The defence played well as a unit but Matt Taylor once again showed his class with his distribution. Ash Jackson came on and did a magnificent job after being out for so long but my Man of the Match goes to Carl O’Neill. The Sphinx keeper was in top form as he produced a number of saves to give Sphinx the platform to produce the comeback.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: O’NEILL, J.DOWNES (Jaynes 84 mins), DAINTY, ROONEY, FLETCHER, TAYLOR, DODDS (Jackson 46 mins), DOWNIE, CAIN, CAREY (Opoku 81 mins), L.DOWNES
Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:
Away Westfields Saturday 24th January 3pm kick off
#UTS #UPTHESPHINX #12THMAN