It’s difficult to play down a game as big as this! This was a key fixture for Sphinx to win in their quest to retain Premier Division status and it was just as critical for Bardon Hill to win for the exact same reason. Bardon Hill had the home advantage but a good travelling support looked to cancel out that advantage in Leicestershire.
Manager Robbie Banks had a strong squad for the trip up the M1 and made a total of 6 changes from the previous defeat to Alvechurch. All of today’s front 6 were not in the side against Alvechurch and the Sphinx attacking options looked full of strength and pace. Dakouri came back in to add steel to the midfield and he was assisted by Koriya and Brathwaite. Out wide were the pace and trickery of Rankin and Robinson and the centre forward was Keiran Nesbitt. In another adjustment Jackson Downie dropped back to right back to emphasise the positive look of the team.
Sphinx were quicker getting into the game this evening and they dominated the ball in the opening ten minutes but it was Ash Malhotra who had to make the first save in the Sphinx goal. The shot didn’t really test Malhotra but it was a reminder to Sphinx to stay sharp at the back. The first good save came in the 15th minute when Bardon Hill keeper Gough was forced to push the ball out for a corner. A high press from Sphinx forced a mistake with Robinson dispossessing a Bardon Hill defender before outpacing him and getting away a decent effort on goal. Minutes later Koriya slipped in Robinson and this time his effort cleared the cross bar. The chances were coming for Sphinx now and Brathwaite played in Rankin who was also guilty of not keeping his effort down and the keeper went untested. Robinson fired over from a good position again and surely one of these chances was going to open the scoring for Sphinx sooner rather than later. Robinson was causing all sorts of trouble to Bardon Hill and his trickery forced a foul on the corner of the penalty area. Up stepped Koriya to take the free kick but his attempt was easily caught by the keeper. 10 minutes to half time and still goalless and a goal mouth scramble from a corner almost saw the visitors in front before the hosts cleared. It was a very good performance from Sphinx in the first half and the only thing missing was a finish to all the chances. Bardon Hill surprisingly pinched a goal right on the stroke of half time to compound all the missed chances but if Sphinx maintained that performance they still had every chance of winning the game despite Mulonga’s 45th minute strike.
HALF TIME: BARDON HILL 1 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
Sphinx had dominated the first half and were by far the better team but they were a goal down and needed to show some character as well as ability now. The game continued in a similar vein to the first half but there was an hour gone now and Sphinx were behind in a game they really could do with winning. Rankin then threatened again with a good shot on the turn but Gough was equal to it. Robbie Banks then made the substitution that would change the course of the game almost immediately. Zuhayb Abdirahman came on for Nesbitt and took up a position wide on the left which allowed Garfield Robinson to take up a more central position in the attack. “Zu” came on in the 64th minute and in the 65th minute Sphinx equalised. Sphinx won the ball back high up the pitch with Abdirahman at the centre of that and the ball soon found it’s way to Rankin who took a touch and tucked away his chance inside the post. The players and fans celebrated the long overdue goal and within a minute they were celebrating again as Rankin headed in at the far post to put Sphinx in front! An unbelievably quick turnaround got even better just 4 minutes later as Robinson went clean through on goal and finished with great calmness to make it 3-1 to the Sphinx. To recap, Sphinx were 1-0 down on 64 minutes when Banks brought on Abdirahman and 6 minutes later they were 3-1 up. Sphinx were full of confidence now and Abdirahman had two opportunities within a minute to get on the score sheet himself. His first chance was smothered by the keeper and the second he sent just wide but what an impact the young man had made since joining the play. Robinson was looking a far bigger threat down the middle and his willingness to run at the defence saw him fouled again on the edge of the box. Rankin stepped up and dispatched the free kick into the back of the net to claim his hat-trick. There was still time for another as Robinson breached the Bardon Hill defence and slipped a lovely finish past the exposed keeper for his second goal of the night. That was the end of the scoring but it could have been more as Sphinx were carving open the hosts at will in the end. Rankin and Robinson shared the goals but it was a high quality team performance that got this big result tonight.
FULL TIME: BARDON HILL 1 COVENTRY SPHINX 5
MAN OF THE MATCH: JEAN DAKOURI
Every single player played their part in this performance and it was an incredibly difficult choice to make. The back four were solid and provided a good foundation for the win. Trey Brathwaite and Fazel Koriya provided quality and graft in the midfield. Rankin and Robinson gave us the flair and the goals and Abdirahman made a big impact when he came off the bench. My Man of the Match is Jean Dakouri because he provided the midfield with strength, experience and quality in equal measure. Dakouri played a key role that allowed the flair players to go and win the game for us and his contribution was excellent.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM:
MALHOTRA, DOWNIE, HAYNES, ROONEY, DELANEY, DAKOURI, KORIYA, BRATHWAITE, NESBITT (Abdirahman 64 mins), RANKIN, ROBINSON