Back on home turf today and Stourport Swifts were the opposition at Sphinx Drive on Saturday afternoon. Stourport are sitting comfortably in mid table and will be a tough nut to crack on a blustery day in Coventry. Manager Robbie Banks continues to have the benefit of a reasonably settled team and just three changes were made to a team that are playing every few days at the moment. Jack Rooney stepped back in to replace the injured Mark Albrighton at centre back, Jackson Downie replaced Adam Bilic in the centre of midfield and Mitch Thomson came back into the side after missing the last game due to injury.
The windy conditions were sure to play a part in today’s match and fortunately the extreme rainfall came at the end of the match otherwise the game would have been in danger of not being completed. Despite this, we had an interesting game ahead of us as Sphinx were in need of the points to climb out of the bottom three. The first sign of class unsurprisingly came from Mitch Thomson as he weaved his way into the box to unleash a decent shot but the Stourport keeper was equal to it. The defences for both sides were performing well and the next big chance went to Stourport and it was only a fine Malhotra save onto the post that prevented them from taking the lead. Minutes later Sphinx had a corner and big centre back Sam Delaney moved forward to provide some aerial threat. Delaney got his chance but not with his head as he conjured up an acrobatic volley to force a good save from the Swifts keeper. It was a tight game with nothing between the sides and the defences were having the better of things. We ended the half with no score and one goal could well win this one.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 STOURPORT SWIFTS 0
We were hoping for more goal mouth action in this half but with the wind strengthening and rain starting to fall it was clear that this half was going to be a test of resolve and character as much as footballing ability. We were 9 minutes into the half when Sphinx got the goal that was to end up winning the match. It started with Keiran Nesbitt powering forward into the penalty area under the close attention of a defender but the keeper made the decision to come out and intervene only to foul Nesbitt in the process and give away a penalty. It took a while to take the spot kick as the referee weighed up a possibility of a red card for the keeper but he eventually settled for a yellow. Jackson Downie picked up the ball and after struggling to keep the ball on the spot in the driving wind he stepped up to tuck it into the corner. The keeper got a hand to it but not enough to keep the ball out of the net. Huge credit must go to Downie who had to deal with a delay to the spot kick and very windy conditions to put his side into the lead. Within minutes of taking the lead Sphinx had a great chance to increase their lead with Mitch Thomson played through on goal but the keeper did very well to deal with the danger. The Sphinx tails were up now and next to try his luck was Abdirahman who shot wide from 20 yards. Robbie Banks made his first substitution just after the hour with striker Nesbitt replaced by midfielder Joe Taylor. Another new addition to the squad and a debut for the former FC Stratford player. Taylor impressed in his half an hour on the pitch with his willingness to get involved in the midfield battle and he looks to be a good addition to the squad. A long bouncing ball then caused havoc in the Stourport defence as Thomson got the better of them and his shot had the keeper beaten but Stourport were rescued by the intervention of a defender to comfortably clear off the line. In total contrast to that, Sphinx then played some sharp passing football involving Taylor and Rankin to set Thomson up for a volley just wide of the goal. Still only one goal in it though and successive Stourport corners five minutes from time had to be dealt with by a Sphinx. The closest Stourport got was the ball brushing the top of the bar. Time almost up and Delaney and Rooney were heading away everything thrown at them as Sphinx secured a very welcome three points in a match that ended in torrential rain. A big win for Sphinx and if anyone had any doubt they were up for the battle then this game should show they are very much up for it.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 1 STOURPORT SWIFTS 0
MAN OF THE MATCH: SAM DELANEY
First and foremost, that was a team performance today and every single one of them played their part in the win. In forward areas Nesbitt worked hard and won the penalty that won the game. Thomson showed flashes of quality in appalling weather conditions and Lewis Rankin had a decent game too. Quinn and Downie were excellent in the centre of midfield with both of them working hard without the ball and showing quality with the ball. The defence should rightly be praised because a clean sheet is a sound base for a positive result. Malhotra is a reassuring presence in goal and will be delighted with a clean sheet. Keenah Rosser is looking good at right back and Jon Haynes was again excellent at left back. The two stand out players for me were Jack Rooney and Sam Delaney in the centre of defence. Neither shirked a challenge and cleared the danger with decisive defending. Both of them should be pleased with their performance but Delaney just edges it for me.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM:
MALHOTRA, ROSSER, HAYNES, QUINN, ROONEY, DELANEY, RANKIN, DOWNIE, NESBITT (Taylor 64 mins), THOMSON, ABDIRAHMAN