Sphinx Drive hosted FA Vase action today as Black Country Rangers came to Coventry to take on a Coventry Sphinx side who had been on a poor run of form in the league. The visitors play a level below Sphinx but cup football frequently makes league standings irrelevant and that’s exactly what happened as Black Country Rangers snatched a late draw to take the tie to a replay. Sphinx manager Luke Hopkins had a couple of players unavailable so he replaced cup tied goalkeeper Neil Collett with Scott Dutton and he also welcomed Mitch Thomson back into the team after a short term injury lay off.
McBride was the early threat as Sphinx attacked down the right and his work produced a chance for Downie who headed over the bar and he also got in a shot of his own. Sphinx were dominating possession early on without really penetrating a well organised Rangers defence. The visitors had set themselves up with two banks of four defending deep and challenged Sphinx to break them down. While Sphinx continued to have the majority of the game they were finding chances on goal very hard to come by. Blythe squeezed away a shot and McBride was inches away from getting on the end of a deep cross but other than that Rangers were standing strong. The visitors were offering very little threat of their own and the closest they came was from a free kick that Sphinx scrambled clear. An interesting half of football that produced very little action for either keeper.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 BLACK COUNTRY RANGERS 0
Sphinx hadn’t made the breakthrough in the first half and despite seeing little of the ball in forward areas, Rangers got encouragement from this. They had a very brief spell just before the hour where Dutton was forced into a sharp save. Two corners followed but Sphinx dealt with them with little fuss. Sphinx went back on the attack and McBride hit a fierce effort that went just over the bar. Midway through the half Sphinx broke away with some stylish football which ended with Thomson heading a McBride chip just over the goal. The game continued in a similar vein to the first half with Sphinx having more of the play but offering limited threat to the goal. Luke Hopkins started to use his substitutes to go for the win with new signing Trovarn Thompson going on up front to replace Dodds who was playing at left back today. It looked like only one side could win this but minutes from the end Dutton was called into action to keep out the visitors and produced a good save to take the tie into extra time.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 BLACK COUNTRY RANGERS 0
Extra time began with Luke Hopkins introducing the imposing figure of Dave Akinuli up front as he went with three strikers. Sphinx went on to control the first half of extra time with efforts from Downie and Downes coming closest to breaking the deadlock. We went into the second period looking highly likely to finish with no score and a replay being required. We were minutes from the end with a replay looking certain when we had an incredible minute of drama. Initially Sphinx grabbed what looked a certain winner with two minutes left on the clock. Richard Blythe was the man to strike and the celebrations showed how much it meant to the team and the fans but straight from kick off Rangers hit a hopeful ball down the middle and the visitors striker capitalised on the lack of concentration from Sphinx to level the tie and send the tie to a replay. A dramatic end to a cagey game and both sides will now have to do it all again on Wednesday night.
RESULT (after extra time): COVENTRY SPHINX 1 BLACK COUNTRY RANGERS 1
MAN OF THE MATCH: LUKE DOWNES
Dutton put in a much more confident display in goal for Sphinx today and came up with some important saves despite having little to do for long periods. Jackson Downie appears to be getting into form now he is back in a more familiar midfield role. The stand out partnership was again Blythe and Downes in the centre of the Sphinx midfield. Blythe got the goal but this time I am giving my Man of the Match to Luke Downes. Passion, quality and work rate in abundance from the young man again.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM:
DUTTON, ROONEY (Quinn 113 mins), DODDS (Thompson 78 mins), BANKS, BARNETT, DOWNES, McBRIDE, DOWNIE, WILSON, BLYTHE, THOMSON (Akinuli 90 mins)
Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:
Away – Black Country Rangers – Wednesday 4th November, 7.45pm kick off – FA VASE REPLAY