Coventry Sphinx 1 Banbury Utd 2 – A good Sphinx performance goes unrewarded

A wet Sphinx Drive was the venue for this Birmingham Senior Cup Tie on Monday night. Banbury United play a level above Sphinx in the Evo-Stik Southern League and have had a decent start to the season with just one league defeat all season leaving them in the Top 10 of their division. Banbury came into the game on the back of an FA Trophy win at the weekend and selected a strong looking side to take on Coventry Sphinx tonight. Sphinx manager Luke Hopkins selected his strongest possible team with the only change being Ash Jackson coming in at left back for Tom Bates. The match was sure to be a test of Sphinx’s credentials and it would be interesting to see how they got on against their higher level opposition.

The game started in pouring rain and that never really changed throughout the match but the Sphinx Drive pitch coped tremendously well as usual and was a good surface for playing football on. Sphinx were looking to be positive initially but Banbury looked a threat on the counter attack too so it was set to be an intriguing contest. As early as the 5th minute Sphinx produced a lovely passage of play which produced a dangerous low cross from right winger Lewis McBride. Sphinx got themselves some early corners too but their first significant chance fell to Mitch Piggon who got a decent shot away from the inside right channel. Sphinx were also looking useful on the break and it was Piggon involved again as he cut a ball back that just evaded the incoming Rankin. 15 minutes into the game and Sphinx were forced into a substitution when Mitch Thomson was replaced by Jackson Downie at right back. Sphinx were playing some attractive football at a good tempo and it was a pleasure to watch but Banbury are clearly a good side and one of their breaks resulted in young Sphinx defender Kyle Barnett receiving a yellow card. McBride looked in good form down the Sphinx right again and came up with a fine individual effort to force the keeper to touch his shot wide. Minutes later McBride went close again when his rasping drive went inches over the bar after being set up by Piggon. We went into the break with no goals but Sphinx had been excellent and their higher league opponents could consider themselves fortunate to still be level.

HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 BANBURY UNITED 0

Sphinx were back onto the front foot and in the 49th minute they got the goal they had deserved. McBride won a corner and the resulting cross was met by a stooping Lewis RANKIN who headed in his fourth goal in six games since joining the club. Corner’s were providing a good source of chances for Sphinx and Piggon scuffed a shot at a grateful keeper at the next one. Another Sphinx corner saw Jackson Downie fire a drive just wide of the upright as Sphinx pushed for their second goal. Rankin then had a chance from open play but again the keeper was untroubled as his shot was wide of the target. Shortly after, McBride cut inside to curl an effort past the goal and Sphinx were left to rue their missed opportunities as almost immediately Banbury found themselves a 68th minute equaliser totally against the run of play. It was a goal of great simplicity when Johnson won his header to release McEachran down the right and his low cross was guided in by Howards from close range. Minutes later Howard hit the post for Banbury and in the 72nd minute Banbury snatched the lead with a very quickly taken free kick that released McEachran to drive across Dutton into the Sphinx goal. A few minutes of football had seen Banbury turn the game on it’s head and the score was incredibly harsh on Sphinx who deserved so much more. Sphinx continued to play their football and believe they could get an equaliser. A Piggon cross that somehow avoided everyone in the box just about summed up their luck tonight but they continued to pile on the pressure in the search for the goal. Banbury held on and secured an unlikely looking victory to send them through to the next round of the Birmingham Senior Cup.

A much improved performance from Sphinx as the team is starting to settle down after all the changes in the summer. The players put in a performance for their manager Luke Hopkins and certainly worked hard too. Despite the loss it was a highly encouraging display that must fill Luke with optimism that his team are not far away from being a very good side.

FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 1 BANBURY UNITED 2

MAN OF THE MATCH: LUKE DOWNES

Matty Taylor gave us a much improved performance and reminded us why he won so many individual awards last season. Lewis Rankin popped up with a goal again and looks to be suited to the wide left position. Rankin’s ability is not in doubt and he has been a good addition to the team. Piggon and Wilson started up front together again and while most of the chances fell to Piggon they could both be pleased with their efforts. My Man of the Match today is Luke Downes. He has recently returned to a centre midfield role and his form has picked up as a result. He was pulling the strings in the centre of the park all night and his eye for a pass combined with his defensive work rate make him a worthy Man of the Match.

COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM:

DUTTON, THOMSON (Downie 15 mins), JACKSON (Dodds 75 mins), BARNETT, TAYLOR, DOWNES,  McBRIDE, BLYTHE, WILSON, PIGGON, RANKIN

Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:

Away – Rocester – Saturday 10th October, 3pm kick off -MFL Premier Division

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