There was no doubt that this was a big game at Sphinx Drive today and the players responded magnificently to bag 3 huge points. The recent additions to the squad had given everyone a lift and performances were on the up but now was the time to make that count with points on the board. Continental Star only lost 1-0 to a good Highgate side the previous weekend so they shouldn’t be dismissed despite their lowly league position.
Manager Robbie Banks made four changes to the side that played Highgate United on Monday night. Out of the side were Rooney, Taylor, Grocott and Nesbitt. Two very welcome returns to defence were the vastly experienced Albrighton and Ricky Fletcher who had been travelling. Jon Haynes was available to take up a left side position which resulted in the versatile Trey Brathwaite playing on the right. Finally Luke Downes returned to midfield after missing the Highgate match with a dead leg.
Sphinx started the match attacking the turnstile end with a strong wind in their faces. It was a scrappy start in a game that both sides would have been desperate to win and the first real chance came to Sphinx as Rankin collected the ball in the box only to shoot just wide of the far post. Encouraging football from Sphinx and in the 14th minute they took the lead after some lovely football created space for Mitch THOMSON to beat the keeper with a smart finish from inside the box. Sphinx were dominating proceedings now but Continental Star surprised everyone with a shock equaliser on 20 minutes. Green got in down the right and it was a great finish across the keeper to level the scores. Sphinx responded in exactly the right way as they took the game to the visitors again and it took just seven minutes for the hosts to regain the lead. The goal began with Albrighton stepping out of defence and picking out a superb ball for Mitch THOMSON who raced into the box, leaving a defender in his wake, to finish with extreme coolness. Sphinx were well on top but Star were having their moments and a swirling shot on the half hour mark had to be beaten away by Hartopp in the Sphinx goal. Thomson and Rankin were combining well up front for Sphinx and they linked up to provide a chance for Rankin who was just off target with his effort. Thomson was full of confidence with two goals to his name already and he left the full back trailing to deliver a superb cross that was met by the head of the unmarked Brathwaite. His header was just off target but again Sphinx were carving open the Star defence. Rankin was struggling with a knock and was replaced by Kieran Nesbitt who could consider himself unfortunate to be on the bench. The squad has some depth to it now and Nesbitt would certainly offer us something different up front. We were approaching half time with just the one goal lead but Mitch THOMSON had other ideas as he bagged two goals in a minute to extend the lead for Sphinx. The first goal was on 45 minutes and secured him his hat-trick and in the first minute of added time he got himself a fourth. Clinical finishing from Thommo had put Sphinx firmly in control of this contest and four goals from him in the first half was a fine achievement.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 4 CONTINENTAL STAR 1
Sphinx were brimming with confidence now and they were straight back on the front again. Just five minutes into the half and they were in the goals again and this time it was Nesbitt who powered his way into the box to tuck away his first goal for Coventry Sphinx. 5-1 up and only 50 minutes on the clock. The game was won and we were barely into the second half. Sphinx took their foot off the gas but were still well in control of the game. Robbie Banks took the opportunity to rest himself by replacing himself with Jamie Delahunty who once again looked comfortable in midfield and Sam Delaney who was struggling with a groin problem was replaced by Jack Rooney. A stronger looking bench was paying dividends as the subs slotted in with ease and Jack Rooney was playing some fine balls out of defence for Brathwaite on the right in particular. A very late consolation goal for Continental Star by Helgate was the only further goal in a contest that was over by half time in truth. Robbie Banks couldn’t have asked for much more from his players as they won emphatically in a pressure game. Could this be the trigger for an upturn in the fortunes of Sphinx? Sphinx are back in action on Tuesday at Boldmere St Michaels so there will not be long to wait.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 5 CONTINENTAL STAR 2
MAN OF THE MATCH: MITCHELL THOMSON
Despite the two goals conceded, the defence looked solid and the experience of Albrighton certainly has an impact. Fletcher slotted back into the centre of defence like he had never been away and he will only get better as his match fitness improves. Sam Delaney once again provided a towering presence and is fast becoming a favourite of mine. Nesbitt came off the bench and provided a threat as well as getting himself a well deserved goal. The wing backs Haynes and Brathwaite were up and down the pitch all afternoon and Brathwaite is a young man who has been a breath of fresh air since his arrival from Solihull Moors. Brathwaite has an exceptional work ethic, is brave in the tackle, has a turn of pace and good feet. On any other day he would have been my Man of the Match but I can’t ignore a man who scored 4 goals before half time. Mitch Thomson is today’s Man of the Match and the captaincy is clearly having a positive impact on him
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: HARTOPP, BRATHWAITE, HAYNES, ALBRIGHTON, FLETCHER, DELANEY (Rooney 67 mins), BANKS (Delahunty 70 mins), QUINN, RANKIN (Nesbitt 38 mins), DOWNES, THOMSON