Tonight we welcomed Chasetown of the Evostik Northern Premier First Division South to Sphinx Drive as the standard of opposition stepped up significantly for Coventry Sphinx. In their previous two friendlies Sphinx manager Luke Hopkins has selected a mix of first teamers, youth players and trialists as he looked at his options and got important fitness into the players. This was their first match of pre season that was against higher league opposition. We were back on the main pitch and the managers team selection indicated that now was the time to start with a strong line up.
A wet evening in Coventry saw the majority of the spectators take advantage of the covered stand to watch the action and for people making their first visit to Sphinx Drive this season they were greeted by an unfamiliar line up. The defence had a familiar look to it with established number 1 Carl O’Neill between the sticks. The reliable Ash Jackson filled the left back berth and at right back there was a surprise as young attacking midfielder Jackson Downie took the position. The centre back pair were the classy Matt Taylor and last season’s young player of the year Jack Rooney. The front six however were all new to the club and much more familiar with playing at a higher level. Four of them have followed our Assistant Manager Craig Herbert from Rugby Town. They were midfielders Richard Blythe, Robbie Banks and Lewis McBride as well as centre forward Mitchell Piggon. The other two new faces were Tom Bates (previous clubs include Bedworth and Nuneaton) and Mitchell Thomson (previously played for Bedworth). On paper they all looked like quality signings and now we were about to see them all play together for Coventry Sphinx for the first time.
The opening stages displayed a good tempo to the game and the teams were looking evenly matched. There were no signs of unfamiliarity in the Sphinx ranks as the new players had mostly played together previously. Immediately it was clear that the team we had in front of us was full of promise for the coming season. The work rate was good all over the park and every player was playing for the team. There was a sense of maturity amongst this group and their physical stature was significantly different to the Sphinx team that had finished last season. The manager had selected a formation with one up front as Mitch Piggon led the line well. He held the ball up well and looked a goal threat too. The midfield was full of energy and quality and we were looking defensively sound. A promising start continued as Sphinx started to edge the possession but it was clear that Chasetown were a good and well organised side themselves. Two good sides competing with each other saw chances at a premium but Chasetown suddenly burst into life around the half hour mark. Initially they were denied by a fine defensive block from Ash Jackson but a corner shortly after proved to be Sphinx’s undoing as the impressive figure of Francis overpowered the Sphinx defence to head home a corner from close range. The one goal deficit was harsh on Sphinx and their response was to produce some good build up play through midfield that set up Mitchell Thomson for a good effort on goal that was parried by the visiting keeper Bateman. Chasetown began to have a bit more of the play as we neared the break but the Sphinx defensive play was up to scratch to see us into the break.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 CHASETOWN 1
The expected rash of substitutions started in the second half which showed no signs of disrupting the game yet. Sphinx had a good chance in the 52nd minute after good team work saw them regain possession high up the pitch. The work wasn’t wasted as a firm shot was sent in to test Bateman who responded well. Sphinx made their first change ten minutes into the half as striker Nic Evangelinos came on to signal a switch in formation to two up front. Sphinx keeper Carl O’Neill was then called into action to save with his legs as the game started to open up. The next chance was for Coventry Sphinx as a fine lofted ball over the top of the Chasetown defence by Richard Blythe put Mitch Piggon through and his shot from a tight angle was smothered by the Chasetown keeper. The substitutions kept on coming and as expected it started to have an impact on the game. For Sphinx, Jacob Dodds came on at left back and two trialists also joined the field of play. Chasetown looked happy with their one goal lead and were content to retain possession whenever possible. In the 84th minute Chasetown looked as if they had wrapped up the game with a neat chip over the Sphinx keeper by Sullivan. Sphinx kept on coming though and they were rewarded for their persistence when what looked like a straightforward take for Bateman in the visitors goal was dropped and Piggon gleefully thumped the loose ball into the net. A goal he and Sphinx had deserved at the very least.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 1 CHASETOWN 2
An entertaining game between two talented and well organised sides. I expect both sides to do well in their respective leagues in the coming season and I hope the Sphinx supporters who watched the game can see that they are going to have a side well worth watching this season. The pairing of Robbie Banks and Richard Blythe in the centre of the Sphinx midfield looks very solid and a special mention for Jackson Downie who performed really well in an unfamiliar role at right back.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: O’NEILL, DOWNIE, ROONEY, TAYLOR, JACKSON, BLYTHE, BANKS, McBRIDE, BATES, THOMSON, PIGGON
Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:
HOME – WORCESTER CITY – Saturday 18th July, 11am kick off