After a disappointing home defeat where Sphinx let a two goal lead slip, it was important to get back on track today. Walsall Wood always provide tough opposition though so there was some hard work ahead of the team today if they were to get a result.
Manager Luke Hopkins made changes to his team that lined up to face Walsall Wood at Sphinx Drive. Regular keeper Carl O’Neill took his place in goal, player of the month Myles Jones provided his imposing presence in the centre of defence alongside youngster Jack Rooney. The full back positions were taken by two young men who we are used to seeing in more forward positions. Jackson Downie was once again at right back and Jacob Dodds took the left back role. The midfield four of McBride, Banks, Blythe and Bates had plenty of experience and ability. Piggon was up front alongside Jack Jeys who had been given an opportunity to stake a claim for a regular start. One of the problems Sphinx suffered with last season was lack of depth in the squad but the bench looked particularly strong today. The options on the bench were Downes, Cain, Thomson, Jackson and Muldoon and it was these options that would end up making a telling contribution to the three points.
Walsall Wood were quickest out of the blocks and they were looking dangerous up front. Sphinx weathered that early storm and their first chance fell to Tom Bates who struck a drive wide of the post from the edge of the box. There was some scrappy play in midfield before Walsall Wood suddenly broke clear which resulted in Delaney finishing with ease past the exposed O’Neill. 1-0 down after 7 minutes was a poor start for Sphinx and just 5 minutes later it got worse for the home side as Griffiths doubled the lead after getting away through the middle of the Sphinx defence. The match was still in its early stages but Sphinx already had a big task ahead of them. Walsall Wood continued to look the better side and they very nearly made it three in the 27th minute when a free kick cannoned off the Sphinx post with O’Neill beaten. Minutes later the visitors hit the bar with a free header from a corner and Sphinx could count themselves fortunate to only be two goals down. Myles Jones was struggling to contain the Walsall Wood front line and was yellow carded as a result. Shortly before half time Jones committed another foul and the referee made it clear that he was on his final warning. We went into half time with no further goals and that was a bit of a result for Sphinx after the way the first half had developed.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 WALSALL WOOD 2
Walsall Wood hadn’t quite put this game to bed despite having the chances to do so and this left Coventry Sphinx with a glimmer of hope as we went into the second half. The interval was sure to result in a better performance from the home side and a Sphinx goal just two minutes into the half made it game on. Some good football outside the box fed Blythe who was quick to spot the run of Mitchell PIGGON and he sent in the perfect pass that allowed him to turn and bury his effort into the bottom corner. A fine piece of finishing from Piggon had reduced the deficit to one goal in the 47th minute and Sphinx were back in the game. The Sphinx cause was helped in the 55th minute when the visitors were reduced to ten men. Sphinx manager Luke Hopkins responded by sending on attacking midfielder Luke Downes to replace Jack Jeys and midway through the half he introduced Ashley Cain and Mitchell Thomson. The return from injury of Thomson was particularly good to see after he suffered an injury on the eve of the league season after looking in good form during pre season. This strength in depth was critical in snatching the points as all the substitutes made good contributions to the team. Sphinx keeper Carl O’Neill pulled off a tremendous save in the 75th minute to keep Sphinx in the game and that was to prove a key moment as minutes later Sphinx equalised. Piggon, who was visibly growing in confidence, burst into the box and showed great awareness to cut the ball back to DOWNES who tucked in the leveller. Walsall Wood were still coming to terms with the equaliser when Sphinx winger Lewis McBride burst into the box and was promptly brought down for a penalty. Piggon picked up the ball to take the spot kick and he was made to wait as the referee struggled to get control. His first run up was aborted and this penalty was going to test his nerve with what potentially could be the match winner. The penalty was eventually taken and it was a cracker of a shot by PIGGON to put Sphinx ahead for the first time in the match with ten minutes to play. There was still time for a brief melee which resulted in a red card for a Walsall Wood player but the points were to go to Sphinx after a remarkable comeback. Sphinx were fortunate to still be in a position to mount a fight back but that’s exactly what they did. It was a credit to their attitude and belief that they achieved this and one things for sure, it’s never dull at Sphinx Drive!
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 3 WALSALL WOOD 2
MAN OF THE MATCH: MITCHELL PIGGON
Very few contenders in the first half but more contenders in the second half just about sums it up. In the first half I felt captain Robbie Banks worked hard to drive his team on. Lewis McBride looked the most threatening on the right when he received the ball. The second half was a different story for Sphinx and McBride looked even more dangerous as Sphinx got back into the game and he won the match winning penalty. Blythe was always demanding the ball in the centre of midfield, was always looking to provide an option for his team mates and had an assist for the first Sphinx goal. Luke Downes responded well to being benched by scoring the equaliser. Myles Jones has to be given enormous credit for changing his game after looking extremely close to getting his second yellow card before the first half was finished. Carl O’Neill made a crucial save to keep Sphinx in the game at a key time but my Man of the Match goes to Mitchell Piggon. He scored two goals and provided the assist for the third to win the game for Coventry Sphinx. He finished his first goal superbly, showed great awareness to set up the second and held his nerve brilliantly to score the winner.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM:
O’NEILL, DOWNIE (Thomson 72 mins), DODDS, ROONEY, JONES, BANKS, BLYTHE, McBRIDE, BATES (Cain 72 mins), PIGGON, JEYS (Downes 60 mins)
NEXT COVENTRY SPHINX FIXTURE:
Away – LYE TOWN – League – Saturday 12th September, 3pm