The final away game before Christmas was a trip over to Wolverhampton and Sphinx returned with a hard earned and well deserved three points. Wulfrunians sit in mid table and have already suffered defeat to Sphinx earlier in the season when they were put out of the Birmingham Senior Cup at Sphinx Drive by a narrow margin. Sphinx came into the game on the back of an impressive team performance against a tough Heanor Town side and that was reflected in the team selection with just one enforced change to their line up. Midfielder Liam Cairns was unavailable due to injury so Tom King came into the side after his match winning goal against Heanor Town. Jackson Downie made a very welcome return to the bench which looked strong for today’s match and that would prove to be the case with the substitutions making key contributions to the victory.
Sphinx started off in confident looking mood and were retaining possession well without threatening goal in the opening ten minutes in a wet Wolverhampton. Wulfrunians were being more direct with their play but a long range effort was all they could muster themselves. Then suddenly there was a big shout for a penalty from Wulfrunians but immediately after the challenge in question the ball broke for a Wulfrunians player unmarked in the box who squandered the clear opportunity on goal. I can only imagine the referee had played the advantage but either way, the Sphinx goal remained intact. Sphinx continued to look to play their football and their patient approach was rewarded on 20 minutes when they opened the scoring with a classy goal. It was Harkin providing the assist again as his run through the middle created the space for Woodward breaking forward from midfield. Harkin slipped a perfect pass into the path of WOODWARD and his first time shot was swept across the keeper into the bottom corner. Good football and a stylish finish to put Sphinx in front at the Castlecroft Stadium. Sphinx were straight back on the attack after taking the lead and only a flying block on the line prevented them doubling their lead just a minute later. The chance came from a cleared Sphinx corner and Harkin picked up the loose ball, skipped past a defender and hit a powerful drive that had the keeper beaten but a sliding intervention from a defender a the far post kept out his effort. Wulfrunians went on to have more of the ball in the following ten minutes but Sphinx were looking solid at the back and apart from one good save by Dutton from a cross shot they were offering little threat to the Sphinx goal. Sphinx were moving the ball around nicely at times and that patient approach paid off again with a corner being won. Woodward delivered the corner from the left and Eggleton was quickest to react as he retrieved the deep corner on the right. He had the option of playing a simple pass back to Downes but why do that when you can whip in a cross any winger would have been proud of? The quality on the delivery from Eggleton was seized on by Towers who stooped at the near post to head Sphinx into a two goal lead minutes before half time. Sphinx were looking in control but Wulfrunians got a surprise life line when they were gifted a goal on the stroke of half time after a rare error from Towers left Grainger with a simple finish past a stunned Dutton. The hosts were now back in the game and there was still plenty of work to do if Sphinx were to go on to win this.
HALF TIME: AFC WULFRUNIANS 1 COVENTRY SPHINX 2
I felt there was more to come from Wulfrunians and that goal with the last kick of the first half should have given them the required lift to improve in the second half. That’s exactly what it did and five minutes into the half they were inches away from an equaliser with a fine lob thumping against the Sphinx bar before being cleared away to safety. Sphinx were looking a potent force going forward however and Towers was the next to have a crack at goal with a shot wide of the target. The next good move from Sphinx saw Towers drive forward to pick out King on the left who passed it infield to Downes who took a touch before forcing the Wulfrunians keeper into a save low to his left. Wulfrunians were looking much more positive this half and it was nowhere near as comfortable for Sphinx as it was at times in the first half but they were defensively sound. The strong Sphinx bench was about to come into play with winger Motshweni replacing King and the unfortunate McCalla having to make way for Fesel at left back after feeling a tight hamstring. McCalla has recently returned from a long term injury and he has been doing well at left back for Sphinx. The rain was really pouring down now but it wasn’t affecting the quality of the match. Downie then came on to replace Downes who is gradually starting to look like the player we are used to. We entered the last fifteen minutes with Sphinx still holding a slender lead and McAteer went close to increasing that with a shot just over the bar after a Sphinx free kick. Wulfrunians were exerting some pressure with ten minutes remaining but the Sphinx defence were protecting Dutton well. When the defence was breached Wulfrunians still had Dutton to beat and he pulled off a quite remarkable save from a downward header to prevent the hosts from equalising. A couple of minutes after that key save Sphinx got the third goal and effectively ended the game as a contest on 85 minutes. Motshweni started it all with a run down the left and Harkin then received the ball in a shooting position which he didn’t turn down. That shot was parried back out to DOWNIE who clipped a beautiful shot inside the far post with his left foot. A fourth was added on 90 minutes to put a gloss on the score line. Motshweni was again the architect of this goal with a slalom like demonstration of close control that left three defenders in his wake. He had made progress deep into the Wulfrunians box and then had the composure to send a cross shot across the face of goal where TOWERS finished from close range. That goal was all about the footwork of Motshweni but Towers finished it like the experienced striker he is. A convincing looking win in the end for Sphinx but Wulfrunians made them work hard for it and the difference in the end was that extra bit of quality in the final third.
FULL TIME: AFC WULFRUNIANS 1 COVENTRY SPHINX 4
MAN OF THE MATCH: REECE BLACKMORE
Once again, a team performance was the key to this win with a combination of a strong goalkeeping display, a solid defence, a hard working creative midfield, unselfish forward play and clinical finishing getting this result. Eggleton and McAteer stood tall at the back with good support from the full backs. Towers got two strikers goals and Harkin put in a real shift up front for the team. Midfield was full of running and ball playing with Blackmore the finest example of that today. I suspect Blackmore could still be running now but he is also proving to be almost impossible to shake off the ball.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: DUTTON, LOWER, McCALLA (Fesel 68 mins), DOWNES (Downie 75 mins), McATEER, EGGLETON, TOWERS, WOODWARD, HARKIN, BLACKMORE, KING (Motshweni 60 mins)