The League trophy had already been won and now we had a cup final to play. Winning the league is a fantastic achievement but if the Youth team could add a cup to that then it would really have been a remarkable season. The squad, parents, club officials and fans all met at Sphinx Drive on a fine spring evening to board the coach to Hednesford where the Birmingham FA Midweek Youth Cup would be contested. The players boarded the coach looking in a relaxed but focused mood and we headed up the M6 for their cup final.
The route to the final had seen Stourbridge beat all but one of their opponents by 5 goals. Stourbridge also play in a division above Sphinx and they had been competing for that league title all season. On the face of it a huge task for Sphinx but they had a highly impressive record of their own. Sphinx had already won their own league averaging over 3 goals a game. They had also scored at least 3 goals in every tie and all but one of their opponents were from a higher division. Clearly two very good sides were about to go head to head for a trophy.
Sphinx had travelled with a strong squad and some of the substitutes could consider themselves very unfortunate to miss out on a starting place. The return of striker Kyle Jaynes was a huge boost and there were goal threats all through the side tonight. A positive selection from Youth team manager Stuart Fraser and a team that looked well capable of causing an upset. It was a nervous start from Sphinx as passes were going unusually astray but there was desire and work rate in bucket loads so I wasn’t overly concerned. The Youth team have been exceptional all season but I had never seen them so motivated as I had tonight. They had a look in their eyes that told me that nothing was going to deny them this trophy tonight. Stourbridge looked the most dangerous from set pieces and an early one was headed over the bar from a decent position. 15 minutes in and neither keeper had been seriously tested as both sides battled hard for supremacy. Sphinx’s first decent effort came via some great individual play from Jaynes. He turned the defender superbly near the touchline and worked his way across the edge of the box before hitting a decent shot that forced a save from the Stourbridge keeper. Minutes later Stourbridge threatened as a tight offside call went their way but Rooney got back to clear over the bar. The resulting corner was cleared and shortly after Sphinx were in the lead. The tireless Jacob Dodds won the ball back in his own half and drove forward to release Jaynes with a cracking pass, DODDS continued his run into the box and timed it perfectly to meet the low cross and put Sphinx 1-0 up on 25 minutes. The goal had given Sphinx a real boost and they were now having more of the play. Any signs of nerves had vanished and Sphinx were looking the better side as we got close to half time. Stourbridge almost equalised when a miscued clearance from Seery hit his own cross bar but that was the closest Stourbridge had got to scoring. There was still time for some more Dodds magic as he tenaciously won the ball back and played a defence splitting pass to Jaynes who was squeezed out under pressure from two defenders. A deserved lead for Sphinx at the break and the only concern was could they maintain the incredible energy levels they had shown so far.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 1 STOURBRIDGE 0
Stourbridge came out early looking determined to get back in the game. Stourbridge were really getting stuck in to the Sphinx but this is a team that cannot be bullied. Stourbridge were exerting some pressure but Sphinx were defending well. The referee had a task on his hands as Stourbridge continued with their physical tactics and then came the moment that arguably changed the game. Striker Kyle Jaynes put in a ferocious tackle on a Stourbridge defender and despite the referee deciding it was a fair challenge a brief melee broke out as Stourbridge objected to the one of fiercest tackles I’ve seen this season. It was hard but fair in the referees opinion and that moment was the catalyst for Sphinx to go on and win the game. Sphinx had demonstrated they would not be bullied and grew in confidence as a result. The next chance actually came to Stourbridge as a swift counter attack ended with a shot just wide of Theobald’s goal. A minute later Sphinx got another corner and an excellent delivery from Dodds saw SEERY rise at the back post to power in a header to double the lead. 66 minutes gone and Sphinx were 2-0 up and the thought of winning the cup was getting very real. Stourbridge were not beaten yet and it took a good save from Theobald to maintain the two goal advantage. Sphinx had a strong bench so manager Fraser introduced fresh legs in Wint and Barnwell – Edinboro. Two quality players who are still eligible for the under 16’s and they are a sign of the quality coming through the junior ranks of the club. The strike duo of Jaynes and Carey had been a nuisance to Stourbridge all night and their pressing won the ball back high up the pitch which led to a good shot from Jaynes that was superbly saved by the Stourbridge keeper. There was minutes to go now and just to make sure of victory Sphinx added a third. A strong header from Rooney put CAREY through on goal and as cool as you like he lobbed the advancing keeper to secure victory. Stourbridge were a beaten side now and Sphinx came agonisingly close to adding a forth as a Jaynes effort hit the post with the keeper beaten. A sensational performance from Coventry Sphinx that deservedly won this cup final and another trophy was on its way to Coventry.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 3 STOURBRIDGE 0
MAN OF THE MATCH: KYLE JAYNES
There were Man of the Match performances all over the pitch tonight and every single one of them can be proud of their performance.
1. TOM THEOBALD – Has improved as the season has gone on, he made saves when he was needed and his distribution was excellent. A clean sheet in a cup final is all you can ask of your keeper who was solid throughout
2. JACK ROONEY – His leadership was outstanding. His commitment at right back was clear for all to see and he even got himself an assist
3. CALLUM SWAIN – Just 15 years old but took it all in his stride as he showed us he can defend as well as bomb forward from left back
4. JAMES SEARLE – Anchored the midfield in his usual calm way and his selfless work was certainly noticed. Nothing flusters him and his rapid movement of the ball often sent his team mates forward
5. LUKE SEERY (captain) – A real captains performance at centre back. Cleared any danger, was a threat at set pieces and has a real eye for a long diagonal pass
6. CALLUM DRAKE – An absolute terrier at the back. His one on one defending and reading of the game is astonishing for one so young
7. BRAD HARDWICK – Put in a real shift in his wide midfield role and his skill always kept the opposition on their toes
8. JACK DOWNES – A bundle of energy in midfield and showed a real maturity in his defensive tasks
9. KYLE CAREY – Pace, skill, desire and scored a goal of real quality. An excellent performance and a threat all night
10. KYLE JAYNES – A striker who works hard, scores goals and has variety in his game. He’s effective dropping deep, going out wide or getting in behind the defence. His performance had the lot tonight and to top it off he’s fearless. Still only 16 and sure to improve
11. JACOB DODDS – This lad has lightning pace, skill and tremendous tenacity. Excellent display from him as he showed us his eye for a defence splitting pass too
JACOB WINT (on for Hardwick 76 mins) This under 16 player has outstanding quality and is certainly one to look out for next season
GABE BARNWELL – EDINBORO (on for Searle 76 mins) A class act in centre midfield and a real talent
TAYLER DODDS (on for Swain 88 mins) had little time to make an impact but let no let nobody down
Unused Subs: JACK QUINNEY and LEWIS JONES