Sphinx came into the game on the back of three straight league defeats so a visit to an Alvechurch side in red hot form was as tough as it could get on Tuesday night. Injuries to key experienced players Carl O’Neill and Robbie Banks wasn’t the best preparation for the game but there were options in the squad to help manager Luke Hopkins cover their absence. O’Neill was replaced by young goalkeeper Scott Dutton again and the void left by Robbie Banks was tonight filled by Ash Jackson who took on the defensive midfield role. The defence still had a make shift look to it with Tom Bates at left back and Jackson Downie at right back. A strong looking attack minded midfield four of McBride, Blythe, Rankin and Thomson supported Charles Wilson who had the responsibility of leading the line.
An unwelcome feature of Sphinx’s season so far has been the individual errors that have been punished by the opposition and this once again gave us a disastrous start to tonight’s match. A long punt down the middle from Alvechurch was dealt with by centre back Myles Jones with a straightforward back pass to keeper Dutton but he was caught napping by the Alvechurch striker who nipped in to dispossess him and fire into an unguarded net. 1-0 down after 6 minutes and we were up against it already and we had no one to blame but ourselves unfortunately. The Alvechurch bench were bellowing at their team to test Dutton in the Sphinx goal in order to “see what he’s made of”. Credit to Scott Dutton because the young man could have melted under the pressure of the mistake he had made but he responded well in my opinion. The early goal had given Alvechurch a lift they had hardly needed considering their recent form and they continued to threaten the Sphinx defence without really forcing the keeper into a save. Alvechurch were wasteful with their finishing and this allowed Sphinx back into the game. Twenty minutes into the game and we saw Sphinx threaten via a familiar purposeful run from Lewis McBride. It was a fine run that was ended when his shot was blocked by a well organised Alvechurch defence. Alvechurch then forced Dutton into a good save after catching Sphinx on the counter attack. The game had settled down into a good contest between two decent attacking sides but the difference was the quality of the Alvechurch defence. Sphinx were having to work very hard to craft any kind of opportunity whereas Alvechurch were showing more of a threat going forward. McBride was looking the best outlet for Sphinx on the right wing but even when he beat his full back Alvechurch were solid in the middle. Alvechurch doubled their lead on 32 minutes after they won a free kick near the edge of the Sphinx box. Alvechurch went for goal from the free kick which Dutton did well to get down to but Alvechurch reacted quicker to the loose ball to tuck it in to the net. Although Alvechurch deserved their lead, the two goals were preventable from a Sphinx point of view and I’m sure the manager would have felt frustration at the manner of the goals conceded. Sphinx were not allowing their heads to drop and continued to look for a goal to get themselves back into the game. Mitch Thomson was the creator of their next chance after he got the better of the full back to deliver a good cross that was spilt by the keeper which allowed Downie to fire in a drive that was deflected just wide for a corner. The corner wasn’t cleared by Alvechurch and Jackson had a chance to shoot but he cleared the bar when under pressure from the home sides defence. Sphinx were having a decent spell as we approached half time and Wilson drew a foul in a good position. Bates delivered a good free kick that Rankin did well to get his head to under severe pressure from a number of defenders but again the keeper wasn’t required to make a save. The half was summed up by two preventable goals but a deserved lead for Alvechurch and their defence looked a difficult unit to breach so the task for Sphinx in the second half was going to be a tough one.
HALF TIME: ALVECHURCH 2 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
- It would take a big change in the game for Alvechurch not to win this but a goal for Sphinx would put a different complexion on things. A change was soon made with defensive midfielder Ash Jackson making way for Luke Downes. With the scoreline as it was, sacrificing a defensive midfielder was the obvious thing to do and Downes would provide some more craft and goal threat to the midfield. Sphinx were still competing well and the next goal would be critical. Just as we felt it may well be Sphinx who found it, Alvechurch fired in a screamer from the edge of the box to go 3-0 up and put the result beyond doubt. An hour gone now but there was no way back for Sphinx now as they had yet to seriously test the home keeper. Luke Hopkins changed things by withdrawing right back Jackson Downie and replaced him with centre forward Mitch Piggon. A bold move from Hopkins as he went to three at the back. The next action was in the Sphinx box as Dutton made a decent save with his legs and just a minute later Dutton pulled off a double save as Alvechurch pressed for a fourth. Sphinx survived this brief spell and followed it up with some good play with Wilson and McBride combining to win a corner. The corner was dealt with by Alvechurch and Sphinx continued to struggle to find an opening. Jacob Dodds came on at left wing to replace the quiet Lewis Rankin but it made no real difference to the pattern of the game now as Alvechurch held a comfortable lead. Sphinx got themselves a consolation goal in stoppage time with a lovely piece of football that was too little too late but still pleasing to see none the less. Good play from Wilson released Thomson down the right and his low cross was tucked in by Piggon at the far post. There was still time for Blythe to hit a good 20 yarder but the keeper was up to the task to keep it out. A well deserved win for Alvechurch and I can see why they have put together such a good run of results. A frustrating night from the side-lines because the ability in the Sphinx ranks is there but overall, a disappointing result and performance tonight.
Man of the Match: Lewis McBride
Work rate and quality from the man yet again
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: DUTTON, DOWNIE (Piggon 65 mins), BATES, JACKSON (Downes 50 mins), JONES, ROONEY, MCBRIDE, BLYTHE, WILSON, RANKIN (Dodds 74 mins), THOMSON