There was no getting away from the fact that the Monday night home defeat to St Andrews was a disappointment. St Andrews are a good side who performed very well and that was arguably one of the best displays from an opposition team we have had to contend with this season. That being said, it was important that Sphinx gave a response to that setback with a performance today. The response began before the match with manager Stuart Dutton making six changes to his starting line up. Some of those were enforced due to unavailability or injury but that is a problem that any manager will encounter at this level. It’s a squad game and today’s changes sees the return of Jamie Towers up front and Reece Blackmore was back in the side after serving a 3 match ban. Also, Brad Jones replaced the unavailable Scott Lower at right back, Ryan Smith came back in at centre midfield, Ryan Baldwin started on the right and new signing Karabo Motshweni went straight in on the left. Motshweni is a tricky winger who has previously played for Daventry Town.
Sphinx started well and they thought they had taken an early lead when Brad Jones slammed in a fine finish at the far post only for the offside flag to halt any celebrations. Jones was well on side but it was a player in the middle who was flagged as the deep cross sailed over his head. Sphinx continued to have good possession but they were not converting that into good chances on the Loughborough goal. Loughborough looked sharp up front as they looked to make use of the channels but they too were not testing Scott Dutton on a consistent basis. Ryan Baldwin got in the best effort of the half with a decent 20 yard drive but the defences were coping with the attacking play of both sides. Sphinx were looking reasonably comfortable but they would need to find a bit more imagination with their attacking play to break through a resolute Loughborough defence in the second half.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY 0
No changes at the break for Sphinx as Stuart Dutton persisted with the team he had started the match with. Sphinx were playing well and they needed to be patient as they looked for the breakthrough. That opening goal nearly came on 54 mins with some lovely footwork from Smith setting up Pidgeon who took a touch before releasing his shot. He didn’t get the best connection on the effort and the visiting keeper saved comfortably. Just after an hour Sphinx made their first substitution with Rhys Deehan being replaced by Liam Cairns. Deehan had picked up an injury and had been one of Sphinx’s best players at left back. Cairns came on into midfield which released Blackmore a bit further forward. Just three minutes after the change Loughborough stunned Sphinx by taking the lead with substitute Ben Ward Cochrane converting a left wing cross. Other sides may have disappeared into their shell but the Sphinx response was to equalise with their next attack. Reece BLACKMORE had been all over the pitch and he was the man who popped up in the box to head into the bottom corner to level the scores back up in the 70th minute. Stuart Dutton wasted little time in throwing on Ryan Harkin as he sensed the match was there to be won. On 75 minutes Towers burst through the middle and despite the cynical attempt to bring him down he managed to stay on his feet to get away a powerful shot that O’Keefe superbly keep out of the Loughborough net. The momentum was with Sphinx now and HARKIN produced an accurate finish inside the far post to put them in front in the 76th minute. Harkin had only been on the pitch for three minutes but what an impact the substitute made. We entered the last ten minutes and Harkin was off on another trademark run but a slight deflection on his shot was enough to put it out for a corner as Sphinx finished strongly. Sphinx had a glorious chance to put the game to bed in the 88th minute with Cairns finding himself in unusual territory and he went on to round the keeper but couldn’t keep his balance and skewed his effort over a gaping goal. Harkin again created an opportunity and this time it was Baldwin who got in the shot but unfortunately wide of the target. It was by no means one way traffic but Sphinx had defended well and got stronger as the game went on. The points went to Sphinx and that was reward for an improved performance and that result moved them into the top 10 of the Midland Football League Premier Division. Sphinx are in a nice little run of form now with 4 wins from the last 6 games and that will certainly be put to the test at the weekend when they travel to Lye Town who are joint top of the division.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 2 LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY 1
MAN OF THE MATCH: REECE BLACKMORE
The defence performed well with George Cleet looking comfortable throughout and Eggleton giving us his usual solid display. The full backs Jones and Deehan were good and they demonstrated the strength of the squad. The two wingers gave us raw pace out wide. Motshweni made a decent debut and Baldwin worked his socks off for his team. Towers had a cracking game up front but my Man of the Match is centre midfielder Reece Blackmore. His work rate was excellent and he showed us everything you want from a centre midfielder. Tackling, passing, driving forward with the ball and today we had a goal from him.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: DUTTON, JONES, DEEHAN (Cairns 66 mins), SMITH, EGGLETON, CLEET, BALDWIN, BLACKMORE, TOWERS, PIDGEON (Harkin 73 mins), MOTSHWENI (Adjei 89 mins)