Loughborough University 3 Coventry Sphinx 2 -Improved Sphinx beaten at the death

Loughborough University was the venue for the first game in charge for new Manager Robbie Banks on Saturday. A match against the students is never an easy task and Banks had problems to solve before we had kicked off. A combination of player unavailability, injuries and the small matter of having no goalkeeper made sure his first go at management was going to be a busy one. The goalkeeper problem was solved thanks to the father of midfielder Luke Downes stepping up to take the gloves. Gav Downes is well into his forties but I’ve been told he was a good goalkeeper in his day so there was no need to worry! Robbie Banks selected himself at centre back alongside Jack Rooney and new signing Chris Sockett came straight into the side at left back. Sockett joins the club from Nuneaton Griff. Tom Muldoon took the captaincy at right back to complete the defence. We had a midfield three of Blythe, Quinn and Downes with Downes playing the deeper of the three. Jackson Downie was wide right, Mitchell Thomson was wide left and leading the line was David Blenkinsopp.

An excellent looking pitch was perhaps undermined by the strength of the wind as some severe gusts were making conditions testing for the players. Sphinx started well and were clearly looking to play a passing style of football. The players they have suit this style of play so it was a sensible decision from Robbie Banks to play to their strengths. The first real chance for Sphinx came on 9 minutes with Mitch Thomson showing a good change of pace to drive through the Loughborough defence and create space for a shot that was too high to trouble the keeper.  Minutes later player manager Robbie Banks created a chance for himself with a fine piece of play. Banks received the ball at centre back and beautifully dummied two strikers to step into midfield where he drove forward before hitting a fierce drive from 30 yards that just whistled over the cross bar. A promising start for Sphinx but Gav Downes had to be alert in the Sphinx goal as he decisively came out of his goal to deal with some imminent danger. 21 minutes into the game and Sphinx took the lead with a lovely piece of football. A beautiful through ball played in Mitch THOMSON who calmly rounded the keeper to slot it into an empty net. A deserved lead for Sphinx on the balance of play and their patient, passing football had got it’s rewards. There was little goal mouth action for the rest of the half but Gav Downes did produce one good save shortly before half time to preserve the lead. A solid performance in the first 45 minutes of Banks tenure and a goal advantage to go into the break with.

HALF TIME: LOUGHBORUGH UNIVERSITY 0 COVENTRY SPHINX 1

Loughborough came out for the second half with a bit more purpose and Sphinx were having to do a bit more defending. Sphinx continued to look dangerous going forward and went close in the 54th minute after some good play from Blythe. The move started with Banks picking out Blythe on the left and his excellent run into the box ended with a deflected shot looping towards Quinn but the ball was just about squeezed out for a corner. Quinn threatened again after some good work down the left from Blenkinsopp as Sphinx pushed for their second goal. The hardworking Blenkinsopp then stole possession back on the edge of the Loughborough box which resulted in Thomson receiving the ball in a perfect position in the penalty area but his first time shot was curled just too high and wide of the far post. Sphinx were looking good for another goal but they were deflated by an equaliser on 64 minutes with the strength of the wind claiming an assist. A Gav Downes goal kick held up in the wind and Loughborough were first to react to it with Ben Ward Cochrane bagging the goal just 9 minutes after joining the play as a substitute. The goal clearly gave the home side a lift but within 10 minutes Sphinx were back in front. A driving run through the middle from Blythe saw him pick out THOMSON to his left and he made no mistake with this first time finish that he curled into the bottom corner. Dodds replaced Sockett at left back, who had made a good debut, with 10 minutes to go and Sphinx were getting closer to a big three points. Just 3 minutes from the end Loughborough got themselves another equaliser to break Sphinx hearts. A corner wasn’t fully cleared and the ball dropped perfectly near the edge of the box for Ben Ward Cochrane to hit a tremendous shot into the top corner that any keeper would have done well to get to. It looked as if Sphinx would have to settle for a point but Loughborough got in a last attack in the 94th minute that would bring them the winning goal. They had all the time in the world to deliver a right wing cross that was superbly met by left back Andrew Bridge who glanced a header into the far corner. An astonishing end to the game that Sphinx had at least deserved a point from. Credit to Loughborough who never gave up but Sphinx will be more than disappointed they didn’t get rewarded for a decent performance. Banks is clearly trying to encourage passing football and I expect he will be looking to get some of his own players in as soon as possible to make a mark on his team. Plenty of positives to take from this and certainly todays events will give him food for thought.

FULL TIME: LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY 3 COVENTRY SPHINX 2

MAN OF THE MATCH: MITCHELL THOMSON

Firstly I have to praise Gavin Downes for not just stepping in at late notice but for performing so well in the Sphinx goal. He looked confident and assured and should be proud of his efforts for the club today. Chris Sockett made a solid debut at left back and Muldoon did a good job at right back. Jack Rooney was back in at centre back and I feel that could well be his best position. Rooney will never let you down for effort and commitment that’s for sure. Luke Downes was always looking to get the team playing in the centre of midfield alongside Ryan Quinn who was a bundle of energy. My Man of the Match is Mitchell Thomson who produced two classy finishes and looked a potential threat all game.

COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: G.DOWNES, MULDOON, SOCKETT (Dodds 80mins), BANKS, ROONEY, L.DOWNES, DOWNIE, QUINN, BLENKINSOPP, BLYTHE, THOMSON (Wilson 88mins)

Next Coventry Sphinx fixture:

HOME – SPORTING KHALSA – Monday 7th December, 7.45pm  – League

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