After the thrilling and crucial 5-1 win at Bardon Hill last time out, Sphinx were back on home soil to welcome a Rocester side sitting just inside the top half of the Midland Football League Premier Division table. Sphinx had put a nice cushion between themselves and the bottom three but they still had work to do to guarantee safety. Robbie Banks had a strong squad at his disposal and made just three changes to the side that won in such style at Bardon Hill. Mark Albrighton returned from injury to replace the unfortunate Jack Rooney at centre back, Ryan Quinn replaced Brathwaite in the centre of midfield and Winger Abdirahman replaced Robinson.
Sphinx came out looking in confident mood but they had a team of volunteers to thank for getting the game on. Friday’s rain had left some standing water on the pitch but the efforts of Chairman Dannie Cahill, Club Secretary Sharon Taylor, Pitch Allocations Manager Dave Bull, volunteer Martin Sutton and Match Day volunteer Alan Townsend had got the pitch playable. Sphinx started the game well enough but Rocester had the first chance forcing Malhotra to be alert to a close range effort in the third minute. Sphinx went up the other end and Nesbitt turned and shot at goal but it was an easy save for Froggatt in the Rocester goal. Sphinx were starting to get going now and Downie surged forward from Right Back to jink into the box but he didn’t connect with his shot and the keeper was untested. 11 minutes in and the first real bit of quality delivery into the box resulted in a Sphinx goal. Jon Haynes, who had got forward from left back, fired in an excellent cross towards the penalty spot and Keiran NESBITT rose highest to guide a looping header over the keeper and just under the bar. A great start for Sphinx and their confidence was high now as they pushed for a second. Their next good chance was from a corner as Albrighton met Rankin’s cross with a firm downward header but it hit a defender guarding the goal and was cleared from danger. Sphinx were looking to play football on the ground and a good passage of play led to Rankin picking it up in the middle before thumping a dipping drive off the cross bar from 25 yards. A wide free kick led to the next opportunity with a Abdirahman effort blocked and minutes after that a good run from Downie set Rankin up for a shot on the turn that was well saved by Froggatt. The second goal came in the 39th minute and Rankin was the provider as he picked out QUINN who turned inside the defender and then sent his drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the box. Sphinx were 2-0 up and deservedly so but it got even better just before half time with a superb individual effort from Zuhayb ABDIRAHMAN. “Zu” pinched the ball just inside his own half on the left wing and accelerated away from the defender and remained unchallenged as he outpaced the Rocester defence to enter the penalty area and fire a brilliant finish into the bottom corner. That goal was all Abdirahman and he is fast becoming a fans favourite at Sphinx Drive. An impressive first half from Sphinx but they would need to maintain their performance in the second half to claim the win as a reaction from Rocester was expected.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 3 ROCESTER 0
Rocester had made two substitutions just before half time in an apparent reaction to their performance from their manager and they had two early one on one chances to get back in the game but they failed with both. Malhotra saved the first one and the second effort was wide of the target. In the 55th minute their eagerness to get back in the game went overboard as a fierce challenge on Fazel Koriya in the Sphinx midfield was punished with a Red Card for Rocester’s Wadsworth. A huge task was ahead of the visitors now but sloppy play from Sphinx almost gifted Rocester a goal. Malhotra sorted it out with a good save but it served as a reminder to Sphinx not to take 10 men lightly. Robbie Banks took the opportunity to give Keenah Rosser 30 minutes as he replaced Jackson Downie at right back and Sphinx were soon back on the front foot with Quinn quick to pounce on a poor clearance to drive forward and get in a good shot that was well saved by the busy Froggatt. Rankin had a decent game today but the Sphinx manager took advantage of a strong bench to replace him with Adam Bilic. The centre of midfield benefitted from the introduction of the fresh legs of Bilic and this allowed Koriya to play further forward. It took Fazel KORIYA 10 minutes to find the back of the net in his more advanced role as he got on the end of a brilliant right wing cross from Ryan Quinn. That was the last significant action for Quinn as a disgraceful challenge (that went unpunished) saw him forced off the pitch. The cuts to his leg just below the knee were testament to the challenge he had suffered but Ryan is as tough as they come and I’m sure he’ll be fit for the next game. Tom Muldoon replaced him at right midfield and he looked good in the ten minutes or so he had one the pitch. There were just minutes to go now and Sphinx were cruising to a 4-0 win but Albrighton had other ideas as his pin point diagonal was killed instantly by KORIYA at the corner of the penalty box and with minimal back lift he nonchalantly curled it around a defender and into the top corner to leave the keeper with no chance. Abdirahman’s solo goal was impressive but Koriya’s had class written all over it. 5-0 but Koriya believed his hat trick was on as we saw the unusual sight of a player who was 5-0 up collecting the ball for the keeper to stop him wasting time! Koriya got his opportunity when the tireless Abdirahman ran at the tiring Rocester defence and was promptly tripped in the box for a penalty in the 94th minute. Koriya was clearly the man for the job although Nesbitt seemed to enjoy suggesting he was claiming the spot kick! KORIYA calmly sent the keeper the wrong way to claim his hat trick and the 6th goal of the game for Sphinx in what was arguably their best performance of the season at Sphinx Drive. 11 goals in 2 games for Sphinx now and the character they have shown to produce that kind of form when it matters is well worth highlighting.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 6 ROCESTER 0
MAN OF THE MATCH: RYAN QUINN
Not one player had a bad game today and it was an excellent team performance. There is a good balance in the team now with pace, strength, experience and work rate all over the park. Malhotra was solid in goal, produced some decent saves and his distribution was good. The centre back pairing of Albrighton and Delaney were excellent and Albrighton’s reading of the game stands out. Haynes is consistently good at left back and Downie looks comfortable a right back. Dakouri provides the team with a sound defensive base in midfield, is as strong as an Ox and can play a bit as well. Koriya got a hat trick as soon as he moved further forward but his ability in midfield was there for all to see. Rankin is clearly growing in confidence and has the flair to win matches and Abdirahman again gave us a display of wing play to enjoy and produced a fine goal too. Nesbitt led the line well and popped up with another goal to make it 7 goals in 12 starts since joining the club. My Man of the Match is Ryan Quinn. He gave the complete midfield performance and was as effective without the ball as he was with it. He has quality on the ball, works his socks off and is not afraid of the physical side of play.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: MALHOTRA, DOWNIE (Rosser 60 mins), HAYNES, DAKOURI, ALBRIGHTON, DELANEY, KORIYA, QUINN (Muldoon 81 mins), NESBITT, RANKIN (Bilic 67 mins), ABDIRAHMAN