Back to league action for Coventry Sphinx after their League Cup win at Atherstone Town in midweek and the opposition AFC Wulfrunians arrived at Sphinx Drive with a good start to the season behind them. Manager Luke Hopkins made two enforced changes to the side with Tom Bates coming in at left back for Ashley Jackson and Scott Dutton replacing regular keeper Carl O’Neill.
It was a gritty start to the game with both teams grafting hard in midfield to earn the right to play. The first good chance for Sphinx came early on from a set-piece after a foul on Rankin on the left. Bates whipped in a superb ball and the giant young defender Barnett was there to meet it but his header flew over the bar. A good chance for the hosts and the next chance for Sphinx was from another set-piece. A corner from Mitch Thomson was fired in low and after Wulfrunians struggled to clear Blythe managed to get a shot away but it was just too high again. It was an incredibly close and competitive match and chances from open play were limited. Midway through the half Sphinx produced a good passage of play with Lewis Rankin at the heart of it as Sphinx were starting to get their game going. This was soon followed by a strong spell of pressure by Sphinx but Wulfrunians held firm. Wulfrunians responded with the next chance after they had pinched the ball in midfield and their striker fired wide when well placed near the edge of the box. Sphinx were getting into their stride more and more and some quality play from them released Thomson through the middle but the keeper rushed out to block but the loose ball fell to Downie who hit a shot just wide of the goal. Downie would have been disappointed not to hit the target but that was much more like it from Sphinx. Just as Sphinx were getting their attacking game going they conceded just before half time to a well worked Wulfrunians free kick. The set-piece was delivered to the far post and was immediately helped back across goal for Waterhouse to fire in past an exposed Dutton. A blow for Sphinx after the hard work they had put in but they had played well enough to believe they were well in this match.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 AFC WULFRUNIANS 1
McBride had been a threat on the wing in the first half but he really stepped up a gear in the second and he was extremely unlucky not to win a penalty just 8 minutes into this half when a defender clearly raised an arm to block his cross. Nothing given by the ref in what turned out to be a key moment as just a couple of minutes later the visitors doubled their lead. Wulfrunians made inroads down the Sphinx right and the low cross was steered in by a grateful Anslow. Wulfrunians had taken their chances well but the score was very harsh on Sphinx. This Sphinx side has bottle though so the game was far from over. Sphinx looked determined to get back onto it and some good football from Sphinx gave Blythe a chance but Wulfrunians were defending well and got in a block on the shot. The time had come to introduce Luke Downes from the bench. Wilson was the man to make way after another strikers performance full of desire. Sphinx were building up a head of steam now and a huge spell of pressure got them the goal they had deserved. It was that man McBride again as he delivered a right wing cross for RANKIN to bag himself his third goal in two games since joining Sphinx. 68 minutes on the clock and Sphinx were well on the front foot now it was back to 1-2. Almost straight from kick off Sphinx were on the attack again. A massive handball shout for another penalty was ignored but it was to prove irrelevant as McBride hit in a peach of a cross for BLYTHE to guide in. Two goals in a matter of minutes and Sphinx were now level at 2-2. Sphinx now had the ascendency and Wulfrunians were getting deeper and deeper to protect the point. The next chance for Sphinx was an overhead kick from Rankin that was comfortably dealt with but Wulfrunians were still a threat on the break and set-pieces. A Wulfrunians free kick forced Dutton into a good save in the 76th minute but Sphinx broke away at real pace and won themselves a corner . The corner came to nothing but minutes later Rankin got a shot away that sailed over the bar. It was nervy stuff as Sphinx looked the most likely to get the winner but Wulfrunians still looked dangerous when the opportunity arose. We were into injury time as Thomson hit a drive for Sphinx just over. We were now three minutes into stoppage time when the Wulfrunians keeper delivered a long punt up field that was misjudged by the centre of the Sphinx defence and Brady couldn’t believe his luck as he ran onto the clearance to fire the winning goal past Dutton. An awful way to lose the game and Sphinx had played well enough to deserve a point at the absolute minimum. Credit to Wulfrunians though because they took their chances and worked hard. Very fine margins are stopping Sphinx from putting together a run of results but they are getting closer and closer to having a very good side. Stick with them because I have every faith they will get it right sooner rather than later and they are certainly becoming an exciting side to watch.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 2 AFC WULFRUNIANS 3
MAN OF THE MATCH: LEWIS MCBRIDE
Tom Bates performed very well at left back where his experience and passing ability really came to the fore. He produced one cross field pass to Lewis McBride that was inch perfect and it was a joy to see. The midfield had Blythe in superb form again and he once again got himself a goal. Upfront we had new signings Charlie Wilson and Lewis Rankin and the pair of them have been a breath of fresh air to the team. They are giving us work rate, quality and a real goal threat and they appear to have settled into the club very well. My Man of the Match today was Lewis McBride. He gave the full back a torrid time again and his pace, skill and never say die attitude are a great asset to the team. He set up both goals with his wing play and is looking in really good form.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: DUTTON, DOWNIE, BATES, ROONEY, BARNETT, BANKS (Piggon 90 mins), THOMSON, RANKIN, WILSON (Downes 63 mins), BLYTHE, McBRIDE
Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:
HOME – Loughborough University – Monday 21st September, 7.45pm – League