Sphinx travelled to Derbyshire below full strength to take on a Heanor Town side with only one home defeat all season but they returned to Coventry with an impressive and deserved three points. Pre- match, all the predictions would have been for a home win but Sphinx produced arguably the result of the season with a team performance of quality and spirit that saw them earn the points their display had merited.
Coventry Sphinx still had suspensions and unavailability to contend with but there was a welcome return to the back line for Darren Eggleton. Pierce Kiembi came in on the left for the suspended Lewis Hudson and McGarrity moved out to a wide right role. Yannick Gomes came into the centre of midfield for his first start for the club to complete the changes from the previous match. A pre-match downpour had left the pitch heavy but the referee was satisfied which was a relief for the away team after travelling 60 miles up the M1 for this Midland Football League Premier Division match.
Sphinx were straight on the attack from the off and within two minutes Harkin was clean through on goal but McCormack made an easy save in the Heanor goal. It was Harkin with the next significant opportunity and he produced a better shot which forced McCormack into a good save this time. We were 20 minutes into the game and Sphinx had started well. The opening goal didn’t look far away and Sphinx obliged on 22 minutes with McGarrity at the heart of it. McGarrity started the move by picking out Ellis down the right and was well placed to receive the ball back on the right side of midfield. McGarrity then fired in an early and low cross that just evaded Harkin’s near post run but KIEMBI had burst into the back post area to convert from close range. That was Kiembi’s debut goal for Sphinx as the two wide men combined to put Sphinx 1-0 up. The Heanor response was instant however and they were level within a minute after a tremendous header was buried by Naylor from a Heanor corner. The equaliser had little effect on the attack minded play of Sphinx and Kiembi went close with a fierce strike that was well stopped by the Heanor keeper. Heanor replied by going close themselves and a sliding block from Eggleton was needed to prevent the home side taking the lead. Sphinx broke up field immediately with Downes and Harkin linking up to set up Gomes for a strike at goal to keep the Heanor keeper busy again. We went into the break at 1-1 but Sphinx would have took that before the game and the key now was for Sphinx to replicate their first half performance in the second half.
HALF TIME: HEANOR TOWN 1 COVENTRY SPHINX 1
Sphinx started the second half in the same vein as the first half but this time they got the goal. Within a minute of the half starting Ryan HARKIN thumped in a brilliant finish just inside the post after coming in from the left. Sphinx were back in front before Heanor had the chance to get going in this half and the task now was to stay in front. Sphinx goalkeeper Scott Dutton played his part in that and produced a smart save on the hour mark that triggered a Sphinx counter attack that very nearly extended their lead. Kiembi and Ellis were the architects this time and Harkin shot just wide to end the swift breakaway. Harkin was soon setting his sights again after McGarrity slipped him in down the right but McCormack beat away his shot to keep Heanor in it. Almost instantly Sphinx were working McCormack again with Ellis feeding Harkin who went on to side step a defender before seeing his drive saved. Harkin turned provider minutes later with Gomes inches away from connecting with Harkin’s cross with a diving header attempt. Sphinx were battering the Heanor goal at this point but couldn’t find the third goal that would put the game to bed. Ellis got in on the act with a good shot on the turn after a combination of Downes, McGarrity and Harkin had provided him with the opportunity. McCormack did superbly to keep the effort out and the Heanor keeper was keeping his side in the game as we entered the final 15 minutes. Downes was really growing into the game in forward areas and he drove forward to cut inside and hit a great effort that was heading inside the post before the intervention of a flying McCormack. Stuart Dutton had limited options on his bench and he made his only change on 79 minutes with the tiring Kiembi replaced. Kiembi’s work rate up and down the left warranted him crawling off if necessary but he walked off to applause from the Sphinx support who had fully appreciated the effort him and his team mates had put in today. Entering the last ten minutes Sphinx still had a slender one goal lead and it was to be expected that Heanor would try to exert some pressure. The Sphinx defence was determined and keeper Dutton made a couple of decent saves but Sphinx held out for the win they had deserved after almost 7 minutes of added time. The reaction of the players was telling at the final whistle with the Sphinx celebrations worthy of the sweat they had given for the shirt and their manager today. They looked up against it before kick off but they took the game to their hosts and every single one of them put in a real shift to earn these points. Sphinx are next in action on Saturday when they travel to league leaders Alvechurch. Come and support them, it will certainly be appreciated.
FULL TIME: HEANOR TOWN 1 COVENTRY SPHINX 2
MAN OF THE MATCH: CURVIN ELLIS
I could make a case for any one of these players today and the key today was the team spirit. Dutton gave us his usual solid performance between the sticks and Eggleton made a solid return at the back alongside Lower who never lets you down. Blackmore was also excellent again at the back. Kiembi was brilliant on the left with his work rate and quality shining through but the nutmeg he produced on the by-line was cheek of the highest order and was worth the trip alone. McGarrity had his best game for the club on the right and his decision making in possession was exceptional. In midfield Gomes and Cairns worked their socks off and Downes looked better the further forward he got. Harkin was a constant threat and bagged what is becoming his usual goal but my Man of the Match is Curvin Ellis. The centre forward held up the ball superbly, worked hard and has a good touch. His performance allowed Sphinx to get up the pitch and play in the opposition half and with regular football he will surely get better.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: DUTTON, LOWER, KIEMBI (Williams 79 mins), CAIRNS, EGGLETON, BLACKMORE, McGARRITY, GOMES, ELLIS, DOWNES, HARKIN