Boxing Day football always attracts a crowd but the 702 that packed into Sphinx Drive to watch the first ever match between the two clubs was far more than I expected. It was great to see so many old faces from around Sphinx all come to together to take in this match and they were treated to a typical derby style match. The challenges were flying in and that eventually led to a red card for the visitors. They managed to steal the points with a massive slice of luck from a hugely deflected shot but I saw more than enough from Sphinx to believe the better side lost today. The bottom line is the visitors got the goals but Sphinx can come away knowing they outplayed their opponents for significant spells of the game.
Stuart Dutton has been able to select a settled squad recently but a huge miss for him today was the absence of Jamie Towers. He was replaced by the returning Aron Wint who had been serving a suspension. The weather could not have been better with a crisp and bright winters day around Sphinx Drive and thanks to the work of the volunteers, the game was underway on time at 12 noon in front of a bumper bank holiday crowd.
Sphinx approached the game with Ryan Harkin playing the striker role with a supporting midfield and it was paying off with Sphinx having the better of possession and producing the better football. Former Sphinx man Jean Dakouri was fighting a lone battle in the visitors midfield and it was no surprise when he eventually went into the referees book. The opening goal came very much against the run of play and the visiting striker Kai Williams was the man to squeeze in the goal at the far post on 34 minutes. Sphinx were not knocked out of their stride by this despite their disappointment in going behind but they ended up going into the break a goal down.
The second half was underway and after multiple warnings from the Ref the visitors substituted Dakouri before he was inevitably sent off. He should have seen red before that but it was astute work from the opposition bench to remove him. Sphinx had to substitute midfielder Luke Downes themselves and that ended up being a crucial miss for them. On 57 minutes Sphinx got the goal they more than deserved with a first time finish from Reece BLACKMORE to put away a low cross from the right. 1-1 now and over half an hour to go and you had to fancy Sphinx to go on and win it. Harkin’s pace was starting to cause problems and two yellow cards for the visitors Jamie Coleman reduced them to ten men and appeared to give Sphinx the advantage for the last 15 minutes. Before Sphinx had the chance to exert pressure on goal they fell behind to a sucker punch with sub Ben Mackey seeing his shot take a horrible deflection to leave Scott Dutton stranded. The visitors now had an unlikely lead to protect and they did just that to take the points.
The only stat that counts are goals ultimately but Sphinx can go away from this knowing they were better than their opponents all over the park. They haven’t got the points this time but there was a lot be pleased about from a Sphinx point of view.
MAN OF THE MATCH: LUKE DOWNES
Sphinx played well as a team and the only fault you could level at them was not converting their play into good chances on goal. A key part of that was the performance of the midfield three with Blackmore, Woodward and Downes controlling that area. Blackmore gave us an all action display and popped up with the goal and Woodward made a big contribution too. Downes left the field early in the second half and his absence was missed in my view. Downes strength is his passing and always making himself available to receive the ball and his departure highlighted what he brings to the team.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: DUTTON, LOWER, McCALLA (Cairns) , DOWNES (McGarrity), EGGLETON, McATEER, WINT, WOODWARD, HARKIN, BLACKMORE, DOWNIE (Motshweni)
Unused Subs: Hardwick, King