Sphinx travelled to Leicestershire to take on fellow mid table team Shepshed Dynamo and I expected it to be a close match with only 3 points separating the sides in the Midland Football League Premier Division table. We arrived in an overcast Shepshed with the pitch looking wet and it was also cutting up but having said that, the ball was running true and the pitch was perfectly playable. Sphinx manager Luke Hopkins made just one change to the starting eleven that beat Lye Town 2-0 a fortnight ago. That change was enforced as captain Ash Jackson was serving a suspension so he was replaced by the returning top scorer Luke Downes. The players deserved to keep their places but the squad is short on numbers at the moment so there were not too many options open to the manager even if he wanted to change things. Key players such as Gio Dainty and Matt Taylor were unavailable today and keeper Carl O’Neill survived a late fitness test to take his place in goal. Due to the serious doubts with O’Neill’s fitness, there was a surprise call up to the bench for Gav Downes who is the father of first team players Luke and Jack Downes. This resulted in three members of the Downes family in the match day squad.
It was a slow start to the game with neither side establishing an advantage in testing conditions. In fact, we were 20 minutes into the game before Sphinx got their first decent effort on goal as a well struck volley from Fletcher was saved by Mitchell. A couple of minutes later Shepshed’s Vasey was played through on goal but O’Neill rushed out to dive at his feet to collect the ball and snuff out the danger. Shepshed were starting to have more of the play but so far were not creating too many clear cut chances. Sphinx were struggling to break down a determined Shepshed defence and it took a forward run and shot from centre back Dan Prichard to see the next Sphinx effort test the keeper. There were no extended spells of pressure or possession for either side and 0-0 was a fair reflection of the match as we approached the interval. Then out of nowhere, Shepshed’s Danny Chapman collected the ball on the edge of the box to turn and fire in a shot that went in just inside the post to give the home side the lead in the 41st minute. Minutes later, O’Neill pulled off a great save to keep the deficit at one goal as we went into the half time break. Sphinx could have no complaints at the score as they hadn’t performed well enough in the first half.
HALF TIME: SHEPSHED DYNAMO 1 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
Sphinx would need to improve in this half, particularly in the final third, if they were to get anything from the game. Just 8 minutes into the second half we had our first Sphinx substitution as Jacob Dodds was replaced by new signing Kurtis Mewies. The 21 year old midfielder joined Sphinx recently with his previous clubs including Atherstone and Bedworth Utd. The Sphinx change was rapidly followed by successive corners for Shepshed as they pressed for a second goal and they got what they were looking for as Sphinx’s failure to clear was punished by Brooks who fired into the net. 2-0 down with 56 minutes on the clock and Sphinx were still struggling to get their game going. In the 65th minute it was three after Mewies cleared off the line only for Towers to return the ball with interest to score the home side’s third. A below average performance was turning into a convincing defeat as the fourth goal went in on 75 minutes. This time it was Darby who got the goal as he took advantage of Sphinx failing to clear a loose ball. Sphinx now had the look of a beaten side and it was no surprise when Shepshed added a fifth in stoppage time as substitute Stevenson got in on the act to finish off the scoring. A poor performance was emphatically punished by Shepshed who ran out deserved winners. The sooner the Sphinx put that behind them the better and I have no doubts they will recover and put in a performance up to their usual standards the next time they play.
FULL TIME: SHEPSHED DYNAMO 5 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
MAN OF THE MATCH: Kyle Jaynes
I expect many will find this a surprise choice but allow me to explain myself. Kyle Jaynes is 16 years of age and is a striker who has performed well for the Youth Team this season and has earned his place in the first team squad. Today, he was thrown on in a difficult situation as his team were 3-0 down and struggling but he gave it his all as he showed no fear in competing against seasoned players. His attitude and work-rate were first class and while he had no opportunities to show his finishing skills he certainly showed us his potential.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: O’NEILL, J.DOWNES, ROONEY, NEWTON, FLETCHER, PRICHARD, DODDS (Mewies 53 mins), DOWNIE, OPOKU (Jaynes 65 mins), CAIN, L.DOWNES
Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:
HOME: BASFORD UTD Saturday 21st February 3pm kick off MFL Premier Division
#UTS #UPTHESPHINX #12THMAN