Coventry Sphinx qualified for the next round of the FA Vase after a thrilling game at Sphinx Drive that really should have been put to bed far sooner. The result was what mattered today but the first half performance from Sphinx was certainly a glimpse of what they are capable of. The team saw a number of changes by Luke Hopkins after the midweek defeat to Midland League Premier Division title challengers Alvechurch and they were mainly in defence. Centre back pair Rooney and Jones were replaced by Matt Taylor and Kyle Barnett. Mitch Thomson also slotted into right back this afternoon as Sphinx manager looked for the right defensive formula. Defensive midfielder Ash Jackson was replaced by the more attack minded Luke Downes and Mitch Piggon started up front alongside Charles Wilson. An attacking looking line up as Sphinx appeared to be planning to take the game to the opposition.
Inside the first minute Sphinx got themselves a gilt edged chance when Piggon hit his shot wide when well placed near the penalty spot. A minute later and the visitors got their first shot on target with an effort that was comfortably saved by Dutton. Sphinx were looking in a lively mood going forward and they took the lead in the 7th minute after some superb work from McBride. A McBride run ended with him squaring a ball for Wilson who saw his shot blocked before McBRIDE pounced to nudge the ball over the line. A great start for Sphinx and shortly after the goal McBride was on the attack again as his shot was well saved. Sphinx were threatening to dominate this tie when slack defending allowed Ellistown & Ibstock back into the game. Matty Taylor dwelled on the ball in the centre of defence and was promptly punished by Yusuf who nipped in to claim the ball and finish past the exposed Dutton. Sphinx were soon back in the lead as just two minutes later PIGGON headed in a lovely cross at the back post. A couple of minutes later Charles Wilson was desperately unlucky as his shot thumped the cross bar as Sphinx were threatening to run riot. Almost immediately Rankin surged into the box and was promptly brought down by a mistimed tackle. Captain Tom Bates took the responsibility of taking the penalty but his effort was saved but the alert WILSON was quickest to the rebound to thump in the third Sphinx goal inside 16 minutes. Wilson had deserved to get his first Coventry Sphinx goal based on his performances so far and I was delighted for him. The next Sphinx chance saw a stooping header from Piggon saved at the near post after a Bates corner. On their rare forays forward Ellistown & Ibstock still looked a threat and Dutton was forced to push an effort from a free kick over his bar in the 21st minute. Sphinx responded with a set piece effort of their own as Wilson sent a header over the bar from a Bates free kick. In the 27th minute Sphinx were awarded a second penalty after Mitch Thomson was needlessly barged over in the box after a positive run from him. This time it was Mitch Piggon who stepped up and his effort cannoned off the post and away to safety. Sphinx were the dominant force by this point and a classy through ball from Wilson sent Rankin on his way who cut inside to send a curling effort wide of the far post. Rankin repeated the trick a minute later with the same end result as the keeper didn’t need to make a save. Sphinx were cutting the visitors apart at will now and it was soon to be a fourth goal from yet another penalty. A deep free kick was sent into the Ellistown & Ibstock box that the keeper was clearly going to catch untroubled but the defender unbelievably shoved Wilson to the ground to see Sphinx get their third penalty of the half. Blythe was the next to try his luck from the spot and he dispatched it to give Sphinx a 4-1 lead going into half time. It was a fair reflection of the match and it appeared to be game over at this point.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 4 ELLISTOWN & IBSTOCK UTD 1
The visitors came out with plenty of pride to play for and if they got the next goal then you just never know in the cup. They were offered some encouragement when they shot wide after a couple of minutes of the half. Sphinx hadn’t re-established their dominance but Rankin produced some brilliant skill to beat his full back and win a corner. The corner from Thomson was met by Rankin on the volley and it flew just wide of the post as Sphinx looked to extend their lead. The visitors were making it much more of a game in this half and they got a goal back in the 65th minute from a set piece. The free kick was delivered deep into the box and was helped back across goal where Wileman knocked it in. 4-2 now but Sphinx still looked relatively comfortable. That soon changed when within minutes the visitors got a third with a vicious dipping volley from Yusuf that left Dutton with no chance. It was most definitely game on now as Ellistown & Ibstock had suddenly given themselves a chance. Sphinx were cruising at one point but they most certainly were not now. Just eight minutes were left when Sphinx survived a big penalty shout and while the visitors were appealing Sphinx broke rapidly to put Piggon clean through on goal but the ball got caught under his feet and he could only squirm a shot wide of goal. The 85th minute saw a goal ruled out for Ellistown & Ibstock for offside as Sphinx were pushing their luck. Sphinx saw the game out when it should never have been necessary after the position they had got themselves in at half time. They got the job done though and credit must go to Ellistown & Ibstock Utd who never gave up and could well have earned themselves a replay in the end.
MAN OF THE MATCH: CHARLES WILSON
A number of pleasing performances today, particularly in attacking areas. Lewis McBride was excellent on the right wing again and Lewis Rankin is settling in at the Sphinx and gave us flashes of his ability on the left wing. Luke Downes returned to the team in a deeper midfield role and his passing and work rate were getting back to their best today. I have a lot of time for Luke Downes and I was as pleased as anyone to see him getting back to the levels I know he can play at. My Man of the Match goes to Charles Wilson. Charlie has only recently joined the club and got the goal he deserved today. He has that touch of quality and combines his forward play with unselfish running and work-rate and isn’t afraid to contribute to the teams defensive efforts.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: DUTTON, THOMSON, BATES, BARNETT, TAYLOR, BLYTHE, McBRIDE, DOWNES, WILSON (Rooney 93 mins), PIGGON, RANKIN (Downie 88 mins)
Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:
HOME – Banbury United – Monday 5th October 7.45pm kick off – Birmingham Senior Cup