Sphinx travelled to Rugby with the strongest possible squad for this crucial match in the race for the league title. Sphinx started the evening top of the table but a win for Rugby would put them firmly in the hunt for the title themselves. The Sphinx side had a good look to it with plenty of senior team experience within the ranks. On a bitterly cold night this was going to be a test of character as much as ability as they took on one of their rivals for the title. A strong spine to the team had Luke Seery and Callum Drake in the centre of defence, Jack Downes and Jack Rooney were the midfield pair and the usual duo of Kyle Carey and Kyle Jaynes were the strikers. Added to that you had the talented wide midfielders Jacob Dodds and Brad Hardwick. There was good strength in depth too as the subs bench had the likes of James Searle, Gabe Barnwell, Callum Swain and Alex Jane.
The game began with a high tempo as the teams looked to get an early advantage but it was Rugby who got the first chance as they shot wide from a decent position. A minute later Rugby hit the post as they started the stronger of the two sides. Rugby were popping the ball around with some excellent one touch football and Sphinx were having to work hard to keep them out. Sphinx always have a goal threat but they were not getting enough sustained possession to create the chances so far. After 16 minutes Sphinx were getting themselves into the game and came close to opening the scoring when Rooney met a corner with a first time volley that he connected with beautifully but the keeper was fortunate it was straight at him. Jaynes and Carey were getting a little isolated up front but when Jaynes did get the service he produced some excellent play to pick out Jacob Dodds wide on the right. Dodds cut in and was unfortunate to see his shot cannon off the post. Half an hour into the match and it was a good quality, competitive and fast paced game that was being contested between two very good sides. Rugby were still dominating the possession but Sphinx keeper Tom Theobald wasn’t being consistently tested by them. Rugby almost came to regret not capping their possession with a goal as a quick Sphinx free kick just before half time saw a Jacob Dodds curling effort go just wide of the goal. Then some exceptional wing play by striker Kyle Carey set up Jacob Dodds for a header that went just over the bar. No goals at half time and Rugby were having the better of the play but Sphinx were looking lively in attacking areas when they got the opportunity. All to play for still as we went into the break.
HALF TIME: RUGBY TOWN JUNIORS 0 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
A half time substitution for Sphinx saw the injured right back Quinney replaced by midfielder James Searle who could consider himself unfortunate to be on the bench after some good performances this season. A slight reshuffle was required as Jack Rooney dropped into right back and Searle took his position in midfield. It become apparent very quickly that Sphinx had made some tactical adjustments to counteract Rugby’s desire to play the ball out from the back. Sphinx were defending with a higher line to squeeze the space in midfield and the midfield and strikers were pressing higher up the pitch to try to force Rugby to go long. The game plan was immediately paying dividends as Sphinx were looking much more of a regular threat. Approaching the hour mark Sphinx had successive corners and one resulted in a swinging cross from Jacob Dodds that the keeper did very well to tip over the bar. Another chance came as Carey headed just wide after a fine cross from Hardwick and Sphinx were looking much more effective after the tactical changes. Centre back Callum “The Terrier” Drake was forced off with injury and he was replaced by Under 16 player Callum Swain. He slotted into his familiar position of left back and Taylor Dodds moved across to play at centre back. Just after this change Rugby took the lead with a ball through the centre of defence that was latched onto by the Rugby striker who rounded the keeper to slot . 67 minutes on the clock and the crucial first goal went to Rugby. A big test for Sphinx now as we were about to find out how good their character and will to win was. A superb response from Sphinx as within minutes they were level. A surging run through the middle from Jacob Dodds was cynically stopped by a foul on the edge of the box. Up stepped Kyle Carey and his effort was heading inside the foot of the post until the keeper got to it but he couldn’t hold onto it and with the instincts of a striker Jack ROONEY was the first to react to steer the ball into the net. 71 minutes played and we were level at 1-1. Minutes later, a deep Rugby cross beat Theobald and hit the post which was a let off for the Sphinx. Sphinx responded with Kyle Jaynes going on a trademark run where he almost forced the ball in from close range despite the attention of numerous defenders. It was end to end stuff now as neither side were settling for a point. Sphinx then got another corner but this time they were to make it count as they took the lead with 9 minutes to go. Jacob Dodds swung in the corner which wasn’t cleared and Luke SEERY, who was perfectly placed near the penalty spot, buried it with a fierce first time effort. Seery soon disappeared under a pile of bodies as his team mates celebrated a huge goal in their title quest. Sphinx needed to see this game out and they showed great maturity to retain possession deep in Rugby territory. Sphinx could well have got a third but they secured the win with a display full of graft, team spirit and ability. The win puts the destination of the league title entirely in their own hands and I was proud of the performance of every single one of them.
FULL TIME: RUGBY TOWN JUNIORS 1 COVENTRY SPHINX YOUTH 2
MAN OF THE MATCH: Luke Seery
First of all, I have to say what a fine team performance this was. The togetherness and determination was second to none. A few performances of note for me included Kyle Jaynes and Kyle Carey up front who defended from the front and stretched the opposition defence at every opportunity. The wide players Jacob Dodds and Brad Hardwick were in good form. Jack Rooney was full of running and took his goal very well. James Searle came on at half time and made a difference as he shifted the ball quickly and simply and wasn’t afraid to put his foot in. However, my Man of the Match is Luke Seery. Luke won everything in the air, defended well and produced some excellent long passes to set the strikers away. On top of that he got the winning goal.
COVENTRY SPHINX YOUTH TEAM:
THEOBALD, QUINNEY (Searle 46 mins), T.DODDS, ROONEY, SEERY, DRAKE (Swain 65 mins), HARDWICK, J.DOWNES, CAREY, JAYNES, J.DODDS (Jane 83 mins)
Next Coventry Sphinx Youth game:
HOME League LOUGHBOROUGH DYNAMO Thursday 5th February 7.30pm kick off
#UTS #THEFUTURESBRIGHT #12THMAN