Well they don’t get much bigger than this. Relegation threatened Coventry Sphinx and Dunkirk knew that three points were essential for their aspirations of staying in the MFL Premier Division.
Sphinx have more depth to their squad recently and that was again required as manager Robbie Banks made six changes to the side that were beaten by Brocton previously. Another goalkeeping debutant was in the line up and this time it was Ash Malhotra who took the gloves. Jon Haynes from Chasetown came back in to the side to replace Trey Brathwaite who has joined Barwell. Trey has been superb in his short time with us and has fully deserved his opportunity at a higher level and I’m sure everybody at the club wishes him all the best at Barwell. Jack Rooney replaced Fletcher who took a place on the bench for this match and Jackson Downie returned from illness to replace the suspended Ryan Quinn. Garfield Robinson from Chasetown made his Sphinx debut in midfield and finally Keiran Nesbitt returned up front after missing the Brocton match.
Sphinx knew that only three points were good enough today and it was all about the result rather than the performance. As early as the 6th minute Sphinx had a glorious chance to open the scoring but Mitch Thomson was unable to put it away. Dunkirk gave us a sharp reminder that they were not to be taken lightly as Sibenge turned in the box to fire in a shot heading towards the top corner but Malhotra did really well to spectacularly tip it over the bar. Dunkirk then stunned Sphinx Drive as they took the lead in the 16th minute thanks to Mark Smith. This was a real test of the nerve of Sphinx now but they attacked Dunkirk in a search for a quick equaliser. They came close in the 21st minute as a Haynes cross from the left was met by Rankin in the box but his volleyed effort into the ground was easily caught by the Dunkirk keeper. Just ten minutes after the opening goal Sphinx were back level with a move that started with Jack Rooney passing the ball out from the back. It ended with a touch of class as THOMSON weaved his way into the box before he tucked away the leveller. Sphinx started to dominate proceedings after their goal and just 7 minutes after drawing level they went in front. Haynes again delivered a good cross from the left and NESBITT was well placed to bring down the ball and fire into the bottom corner to put Sphinx 2-1 up after 32 minutes. Sphinx were flying now and their forwards Thomson and Nesbitt combined well to give Nesbitt himself a good shooting opportunity that forced a good save from the visiting keeper. Dunkirk were still threatening when they had the chance and two excellent interventions from Sam Delaney prevented Dunkirk from getting into shooting positions. It was becoming end to end but Sphinx carried much more threat and a rasping Rankin drive was pushed past the post by the busy Dunkirk keeper. The resulting Sphinx corner was cleared off the line as Dunkirk must have been hoping for the half time whistle. There was still time for Downie to produce a moment of brilliance to make room for a cross that just evaded the head of Robinson in the box. A one goal lead for Sphinx as we went into the break and they could easily have had more with more clinical finishing.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 2 DUNKIRK 1
Robbie Banks made a half time substitution as he made a tactical change with the unfortunate Rooney making way for attacking right back Keenah Rosser. Within minutes of the restart Rankin made good progress down the right where he slipped it to the overlapping Rosser who fired in a dangerous cross that Thomson hit over the bar from an excellent position. On 49 minutes Nesbitt was brought down outside the box but Thomson’s effort from the free kick failed to trouble the keeper. The next opportunity was for Garfield Robinson after great work from Downie on the left but his well hit drive was just too high to threaten the goal. A strong start to the second half from Sphinx but while the lead was only one goal Dunkirk were still in it. The next significant chance fell to Thomson again after Rankin worked his way to the by-line to cut a good ball back to him but this time his accurate shot was cleared off the line. Dunkirk were somehow still in this game and they loaded the ball into the Sphinx box whenever the chance arose as they looked for that one good chance to equalise. Their hopes suffered a blow when Lucus was needlessly sent off in the 79th minute for what appeared to be dissent aimed at the assistant referee. Sphinx looked relatively comfortable with their lead but they had squandered numerous opportunities to extend their advantage. Fortunately the two goals were enough to see off Dunkirk as they secured a vital three points at Sphinx Drive.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 2 DUNKIRK 1
MAN OF THE MATCH: SAM DELANEY
Ash Malhotra had a decent debut in goal and I would have no problems with seeing him in the team again. Jon Haynes gave us a performance full of energy on the left and he certainly helped compensate for the loss of Brathwaite to Barwell. Albrighton again provided that calm head at the back and also demonstrated his eye for a pass to set Sphinx on the attack. Robinson made a highly promising debut as he was going past people for fun and clearly has a lot of ability. Downie should get a lot of credit for his performance in midfield considering he is not fully recovered from illness. The front two grabbed a goal each but my Man of the Match is Sam Delaney. He produced some timely tackles to snuff out danger and his voice could be heard as he strived to get the best out of his team mates. A mature performance from him despite his youth and a big presence in the centre of defence.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: MALHOTRA, RANKIN, HAYNES, ALBRIGHTON, ROONEY (Rosser 46 mins), DELANEY, ROBINSON (Dodds 87 mins), DOWNIE, NESBITT (Delahunty 83 mins), DOWNES, THOMSON