After two months without a home game Coventry Sphinx picked up where they left off with another win at Sphinx Drive. Two Ryan Harkin goals were the key to a third straight home win but Wulfrunians made them work hard for the victory that was only secured late in the game.
The team had a number of changes from the previous match at Sporting Khalsa including three new signings made by Stuart Dutton during the week. Centre Back Edi Appleton came in for the suspended Darren Eggleton and he was partnered by McCalla who had shifted across from Left Back. The second new signing Lewis Hudson came straight into the side at Left Back and the third new man, Pierce Kiembi, started on the left in place of the unavailable Aron Wint. One final change saw Callum Woodward replace Luke Downes in midfield.
The tricky playing surface had survived a morning pitch inspection but it was clearly going to have a bearing on today’s match at Sphinx Drive. Inside the first minute Sphinx had a glorious chance to take the lead but Jamie Towers couldn’t punish an out of position goalkeeper when he should really have scored. Towers went on to have more joy down the right and a cross from him should have been converted by Kiembi who didn’t get a clean connection when well placed in the box. Kiembi was looking lively on his debut and he was close to scoring when a McGarrity drive was blocked in the penalty box but he was smothered out by the Wulfrunians defence. Both sides were struggling to adapt to the surface and it was a scrappy game so far. Wulfrunians threatened just after the half hour mark with an accurate cross from the right sent inches over Dutton’s bar from a first time shot. A few minutes later Dutton saved smartly as Wulfrunians grew into the game but a goalless first half was a fair reflection of the action so far.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 AFC WULFRUNIANS 0
Almost immediately after the restart debutant Kiembi went down with a shoulder problem and was replaced by Ryan Harkin who took his place on the left of the Sphinx attack. Sphinx were doing well to get the ball down and play in the opening 15 minutes of the half without really troubling the Wulfrunians keeper and they were very nearly punished until a brilliant close range stop from Dutton prevented the visitors going in front. The deadlock was broken midway through the half though with a sublime finish from Ryan Harkin. A neat through ball broke the offside trap and HARKIN had the time to take a touch and show great composure to fire low past the exposed Wulfrunians keeper on 68 minutes. The Wulfrunians response was instant as Dutton tipped over a superb long range strike and that was followed by a Wulfrunians Free Kick thumping the cross bar. Sphinx had ridden their luck a touch there but the game was opening up since the goal and Towers thought he had doubled the lead with a header but the referee remained unconvinced the ball had crossed the line before the clearance came. Towers was becoming a real menace and his run down the right created the next chance for Sphinx which ended with Woodward driving just wide of the upright. Wulfrunians remained a threat themselves though and the second goal from Harkin on 81 minutes was necessary to secure the result. McGarrity was the architect of this one and his good work set up HARKIN for a close range finish. Two minutes later Sphinx wrapped it up with powerful TOWERS header. The clean sheet was the target now but Wulfrunians put the Sphinx goal under pressure in the closing minutes and that resulted in a Red Card for debutant Lewis Hudson for handball on the line. The ball apparently struck him on the chest so he can consider himself very unfortunate indeed. Wulfrunians then sent the spot kick over Dutton’s bar and that retained the clean sheet he thoroughly deserved. Ryan Harkin still had time to look for his hat-trick and his shot from the by-line rolled agonisingly along the face of goal. Dutton also had to make one more good save before full time but Sphinx had done enough to take the three points. This game was far from as straightforward as the score may suggest. It could have gone either way but ultimately Sphinx were more clinical with their finishing.
Sphinx are next in action on Tuesday evening with an away game at Tividale before we return to Sphinx on Saturday for an “away” game against our tenants Coventry Utd.
COVENTRY SPHINX MAN OF THE MATCH: RYAN HARKIN
A number of good performances today and Scott Dutton continued his fine form in goal with a clean sheet. Kieran McCalla moved to his preferred position of centre back and looked good. Debutant Lewis Hudson had a good game and looked a threat going forward. McGarrity is settling in nicely now and was a livewire up front and Towers caused a lot of trouble down the right and scored with a fine header. However, I can’t ignore the claims of Ryan Harkin who came off the bench in the 48th minute and won the game for Sphinx with the first two goals.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: DUTTON, LOWER, HUDSON, CAIRNS, APPLETON, McCALLA, TOWERS (J.Downes 85 mins), WOODWARD, McGARRITY, BLACKMORE (L.Downes 84 mins), KIEMBI (Harkin 48 mins)