Title challengers Basford Utd made the trip from Nottingham to Coventry as Sphinx looked to continue their fine home record against clubs going for the title. After last weekend’s disappointing defeat at Shepshed it was good to be back at home but Sphinx couldn’t have got a tougher test than this one. Sphinx were defeated at Basford earlier in the season and it’s been no surprise to me that Basford have maintained their title challenge through the season.
I expected changes to the Sphinx line up today with last Saturday’s heavy defeat in mind as well as the return of two key players from suspension. Firstly, Ash Jackson came straight back into the side at left back which allowed Jack Rooney to move to his favoured side at right back and that resulted in 16 year old Jack Downes taking a place on the bench. Gio Dainty also returned from suspension, which was no surprise, but his deployment as a centre forward was as he normally plays at left back or left midfield. This resulted in the unfortunate Opoku taking a place on the bench. Other changes saw recent signing Mewies replace pacey winger Dodds as Sphinx manager Luke Hopkins looked to get more steel into the midfield area. Also coming in for his debut was 19 year old goalkeeper Curtis Pond who replaced the injured senior keeper O’Neill. Pond’s previous club was Chasetown and he has provided important cover for senior keeper O’Neill who was suffering with an ankle injury. Sphinx had a bench full of teenagers and one was another new signing by the name of Connor McEnroe whose previous club was Rugby Town.
The pitch looked in reasonable condition as we got underway but it wasn’t long before it started to cut up. Both sides were looking to keep the ball on the deck and Sphinx were knocking it around well in the opening minutes. It didn’t take the visitors long to get into the game and as early as the 7th minute they had a great chance from a corner that was headed over the bar. A minute later and Sphinx were forced to clear the ball off their own goal line and in the 9th minute they were picking the ball out of their net as Wiggins-Thomas produced a fine finish into the bottom corner. A disastrous start for Sphinx and Basford continued to have the better of things as Pond saved a good strike from Whitehurst. The 24th minute saw the visitors double their lead as Wiggins-Thomas took advantage of a loose ball in the six yard box to fire in his second. There were some appeals for an infringement on the keeper but the goal stood and Sphinx were really up against it now. Sphinx had rarely troubled Deeney in the Basford goal but in the 36th minute they had their best chance so far as the lively Ash Cain set off on a run down the right that saw him pick out Dainty but his first time shot was saved by Deeney. That seemed to perk Sphinx up and it was Cain providing the chance for Dainty again as his effort was pushed onto the post by the Basford keeper. Cain was having a good spell and his next ball across the face of goal was almost bundled in by Dainty. That was better from Sphinx as we approached half time and the game was certainly not over yet. A deserved lead for Basford Utd at half time but if Sphinx could get the next goal they were still in with a chance of getting a result.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 BASFORD UTD 2
No changes for Sphinx at the break but it wasn’t long before we had a couple of events that would secure the game for Basford. Just 8 minutes after the interval a hard tackle triggered a mass confrontation that resulted in Sphinx midfielder Jackson Downie getting a straight Red for an apparent headbutt and minutes later Basford got their third goal that sealed the points for them. The goal had some controversy about it as Basford were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box that was passed into the net by Webster while the keeper was still lining up his wall. Furious protests from the Sphinx players ensued but the referee awarded the goal. 57 minutes on the clock and Sphinx were down to ten min and 3-0 down so now it was a case of playing for pride. Four minutes later Basford added a fourth with a good goal from Stuart Hendrie and in the 65th minute he tucked in his second to make it 5-0. Still 25 minutes to play and Sphinx were in danger of severe embarrassment. Sphinx made their first change as the powerful young striker Aaron Opoku came on for midfielder Mewies and this was swiftly followed by Youth striker Kyle Jaynes replacing Newton. The two combined well to force Deeney into a rare save from a Jaynes effort in the 73rd minute. Opoku looked a handful despite the Basford dominance of the game and will have done his case for starting the next match no harm at all. A combination of Basford easing off and Sphinx sticking at it resulted in no more goals in a game that most of the crowd were glad to see finish. A hugely disappointing result for Coventry Sphinx but Basford demonstrated the standards required for Sphinx to make a title challenge a reality. We are a very young side and we looked it yesterday so a bit more experience will no doubt be in mind for the management.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 BASFORD UTD 5
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ashley Cain
Clearly there were few stand out performances but Ash Cain looked the biggest threat as he delivered some excellent balls from the wide right position. Some good old fashioned wing play from him today as he looked to beat his man and get his cross in as soon as possible.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: POND, ROONEY (McEnroe 89 mins), JACKSON, MEWIES (Opoku 65 mins), FLETCHER, PRICHARD, CAIN, DOWNIE, DAINTY, L.DOWNES, NEWTON (Jaynes 72 mins)
Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:
Away Brocton Saturday 28th February 3pm kick off