An away trip to relegation threatened Continental Star for Coventry Sphinx today and manager Luke Hopkins was struggling for players for today’s match. Key players such as Ash Cain, Ash Jackson and keeper Carl O’Neill were unavailable and midfielder Jackson Downie was serving a suspension. To make matters worse, O’Neill’s replacement Curtis Pond had also picked up an injury which resulted in 16 year old goalkeeper Callum Brown stepping in at late notice to take the gloves. Sphinx have had a youthful look to the side all season but today was exceptional as the average age of the squad was just 19. Whatever the result today, the experience was sure to do the young lads good.
Any fears of the youngsters being intimidated were soon put to bed as they were competing well against a side fighting for their lives at the bottom end of the table. An early chance for Sphinx fell to Luke Downes on the edge of the box after tenacious play from Dodds had provided him with the opportunity but his shot was wide of the target. No further chances of note until midway through the half as both sides battled for supremacy. The chance came to the home side but it was headed over from close range while under severe pressure from a Sphinx defender. Sphinx failed to heed the warning and just a minute later Continental Star were ahead thanks to a strike from Okome. It was still a fairly even game but Sphinx were not testing the keeper enough and Star had clearly gained confidence from the goal. Opoku was the next to try his luck for Sphinx after a bulldozing run through the middle saw his shot deflected for a corner. The hosts saw out the half without really threatening the Sphinx goal but the Continental Star keeper had little to concern him either.
HALF TIME: CONTINENTAL STAR 1 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
Within a minute of the restart there was a chance for the home side but it was blazed high over the bar. Sphinx responded with Opoku getting played through on goal but his delayed shot allowed a defender to get back and deflect his shot over the bar. This was rapidly followed by a mazy run from Jack Downes that finished with a good shot to force a save from Star keeper Ellis. That was better from Sphinx and the next chance was courtesy of an error at the back that presented Opoku with an opportunity to test the keeper but he again dealt with the shot. The chances were coming regularly for Sphinx now and a diving header from Opoku went just wide of the post. Then Jack Downes and Dan Prichard combined well down the right to set up Luke Downes for a volleyed effort that was kept out by Ellis in the Continental Star goal. Sphinx were getting on top now but they couldn’t find the goal their play had deserved. Just 20 minutes to play now and Opoku demonstrated his power to shrug off a defender but his shot was weak and failed to test the keeper. Minutes later Sphinx came incredibly close to scoring as a Jack Downes strike crashed against the bar. Sphinx were dominant now and some great one touch football put in substitute Kyle Jaynes who shot over from the edge of the box. Time was running out for Sphinx and as they committed more players forward they were punished by Continental Star who doubled their lead thanks to Ndow. 16 year old Sphinx keeper Callum Brown did well to keep out the first effort but could do nothing to prevent Ndow firing in the rebound in the 81st minute. Sphinx had been caught with a sucker punch and to rub salt into their wounds Continental Star got a third in the 84th minute from Nelson. Again, the exposed Callum Brown produced two good saves on the trot but the third strike beat him despite his valiant efforts. Sphinx were beaten now and to make matters worse they conceded a penalty that saw Gio Dainty receive a Red Card. It did however lead to a great moment for 16 year old debutant Callum Brown as he saved the penalty with a good stop. A disappointing result for Sphinx after dominating the second half but plenty of positives to take from the performance of such a young team.
FULL TIME: CONTINENTAL STAR 3 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
MAN OF THE MATCH: JACK DOWNES
First of all, a mention for a young man called Callum Brown. A few weeks ago I was watching him play for the Coventry Sphinx Under 16 team and today he was thrown in at the deep end after a very late call into the team. He coped with the situation remarkably well and he certainly proved his character was up to it today. On top of that, he did brilliantly to save a penalty at the end. Dan Prichard moved from centre back to right back today and looked more than comfortable in that position and seemed to thrive on the opportunity to get forward. Jack Rooney, as I have come to expect, worked his socks off in the centre of midfield and Aaron Opoku got plenty of chances and on another day could have had a hat-trick. However, my Man of the Match is Jack Downes. He has only just turned 17 but he is starting to show a real maturity in his play. Right midfield seems to suit him and his thunderous effort that came back off the bar was the closest Sphinx came to scoring.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: BROWN, PRICHARD, DAINTY, MEWIES, TAYLOR, FLETCHER, J.DOWNES, ROONEY, OPOKU ,L.DOWNES, DODDS (Jaynes 67 mins)
Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:
HOME – AFC Wulfrunians – Saturday 21st March 3pm kick off