The moment we have been waiting for has arrived. The Midland Football League season is back underway and Sphinx couldn’t have got a tougher start than a trip to last seasons title challengers Long Eaton United. The players and staff boarded the coach at a sunny Sphinx Drive to make the journey up the M1 for their first league game of the season and the mood was good in the camp.
Manager Luke Hopkins had to cope with some absentees today with the experienced midfielder Tom Bates, young midfielder Jackson Downie and new signing Avun Jephcott all unavailable. Summer signing Mitchell Thomson also failed a late fitness test and was unable to start but it still looked a strong side on paper as Sphinx prepared to take on a team who had finished in an impressive 3rd place last season. There were five new signings in the Sphinx starting line up today and we were keen to see how they performed.
It was a scrappy start to the game with both sides struggling to stamp their authority on the match. Long Eaton were looking slightly more threatening going forward but the work rate from both teams was making it difficult for any sustained spells of football to develop. Sphinx were looking defensively sound with new centre back Myles Jones cutting an imposing figure in the Sphinx back line. Long Eaton were a physical side but their best player was one of the smaller lads by the name of Michael Armstrong. He had a role in front of their back four and was protecting the defence as well as picking out some good balls when in possession. Sphinx never really got to grips with him but Long Eaton never really took advantage of his play either. The battle continued as the half wore on and goal mouth action was severely lacking. The keepers were well involved but good chances for the forwards were hard to come by. It was no surprise that we went into the interval without a goal and I suspect Sphinx would have been happier with that than the hosts.
HALF TIME: LONG EATON UNITED 0 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
In a such a tight contest it wouldn’t come as a shock if it was settled by one moment of magic or an error and it was the latter that was to be the case in this match. Sphinx were playing reasonably well defensively but were struggling to make an impact in the attacking third. The same could be said of Long Eaton but a long ball down the middle proved to be Sphinx’s undoing as Long Eaton capitalised on a defensive mix up to take the lead. The centre back pairing of Jones and Taylor had looked solid but a miscommunication between the two of them presented a gift to Long Eaton that they seized on to take the lead in the 58th minute. Sphinx responded in exactly the right way and some determined play from Luke Downes saw his shot whistle just wide of the upright and arguably their best chance of the match came minutes later. Ash Jackson, bursting forward from left back, whipped in a low cross that Ash Cain got on the end of but his first time effort flew over the bar. Better from Sphinx and they then switched to a 4-3-3 in an effort to get an equaliser. Lewis McBride was pushed further forward and Luke Downes went more central. Jack Jeys replaced Ash Cain up front but Long Eaton defended resolutely to protect their lead. Sphinx were not giving up but they were fast running out of time when Long Eaton sealed the points with three minutes to go. Once again a long ball down the middle wasn’t dealt with and the striker was left to poke the ball past O’Neill in the Sphinx goal. Sphinx still kept going as Jack Jeys shot wide after some good play through midfield but it wasn’t to be Sphinx’s day. Overall, a draw would have been a fair result in a very tight and competitive game that was settled by a mistake at the back.
FULL TIME: LONG EATON UNITED 2 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
MAN OF THE MATCH: MYLES JONES
Some encouraging performances despite the result today. Carl O’Neill was his usual self and was a solid presence in the Sphinx goal. Left back Ash Jackson was worked hard defensively and produced the cross of the match that almost got Sphinx an equaliser. Captain Robbie Banks led by example in midfield but my Man of the Match is Myles Jones. He is an impressive looking figure and appears to be settling into the side well.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM:
O’NEILL, ROONEY, JACKSON (Dodds 87mins), BANKS (c), TAYLOR, JONES, McBRIDE, BLYTHE, PIGGON (Jaynes 90mins), CAIN (Jeys 75 mins), L.DOWNES
Subs not used: Mitchell Thomson, Callum Drake