Spring was in the air today as we travelled to top of the table Alvechurch in glorious sunshine. It was a total contrast to last weekend when Sphinx travelled to Heanor Town in the pouring rain and emerged with a superb three points. Alvechurch came into the season as title favourites after running Hereford close last season and they haven’t disappointed. After today’s hard fought win Alvechurch are now nine points clear at the top with seven games left to play. Sphinx gave them a good game but ultimately the better finishing won the game. Sphinx certainly made the hosts work for the victory but league leaders know how to win games and they did just that.
Sphinx manager Stuart Dutton was forced into changes to his line up with Callum Woodward serving the last game of his ban and Reece Blackmore beginning a ban of his own. Centre back Darren Eggleton was also unavailable and centre forward Curvin Ellis needed replacing after his switch to Coleshill Town before the transfer deadline. The problem at the back was solved by the recent new signing Matt Taylor and the fans favourite slotted right back in as if he’d never been away. The returning Keiran McCalla partnered him at centre back and Lewis Hudson returned at left back after serving a one game suspension. Jamie Towers took on the centre forward role in place of the departed Ellis to complete the changes.
A strong breeze was affecting Lye Meadow but other than that it was ideal weather for football. Coventry Sphinx were attacking into the wind as we got underway and it was a fairly balanced start to the game. Sphinx got their first chance on 9 minutes with Harkin bursting through the middle and despite the attention of three Alvechurch defenders he still managed to get a shot away. That shot rebounded into the path of Nathan McGarrity and his effort went just wide to rustle the side netting. An encouraging start for Sphinx against the meanest defence in the league but chances will be few and far between against Alvechurch and when you get them you must take them. Alvechurch responded with a right wing cross being blasted well wide of the target but Sphinx could be satisfied with the start they had made. Midway through the half Pierce Kiembi came to life on the left wing with a driving run to the by-line where he drilled it across the six yard box for Harkin to force a brilliant save out of the Alvechurch keeper. That scare for Alvechurch triggered a good spell for them and for the next ten minutes they controlled the game. Sphinx stood firm in defence and came back into it with Downes pinching it in midfield to send McGarrity away down the right. He went on to cross for Kiembi who saw his shot saved but Towers flicked it towards goal only for a defender to head off the line. The danger wasn’t clear and another save was necessary to keep out McGarrity’s effort. A minute later Harkin was away down the left and he hit a great ball across the six yard box but there was no one there to finish the cross. That was better from Sphinx and they looked to be on course to go into half time level but Alvechurch grabbed the lead just before half time. Dutton saved the initial effort but a lovely ball chipped to the far post was guided in by Mark Smith. That was a blow for Sphinx with Alvechurch getting the crucial opening goal but an encouraging performance from them all the same.
HALF TIME: ALVECHURCH 1 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
A tough task was ahead of Sphinx now against an Alvechurch side who specialise in clean sheets. Their cause was harmed with the injury to left winger Pierce Kiembi early in the second half with him looking a threat with his direct running. Dutton pulled off a smart save on the hour mark but Alvechurch got the killer second goal on 66 minutes after a break ended with a beautiful finish into the bottom corner from Connor Deards. Alvechurch were well practised at looking after a lead and the game was probably beyond Sphinx now but that didn’t stop them looking for a way back into it. The closest they got was a superb free kick from substitute Tom King that was heading for the top corner before the intervention of the Alvechurch keeper. Towers also went close but the fine form of the Alvechurch keeper got him the clean sheet his performance had deserved. Alvechurch went on to claim another three points on their title charge but Sphinx could be satisfied with their own performance and should certainly be encouraged by the display of the team today.
FULL TIME: ALVECHURCH 2 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
COVENTRY SPHINX MAN OF THE MATCH: Nathan McGarrity
Cairns worked hard in the central midfield areas and Harkin was always a source of potential danger with his pace. The stand out defender was Matt Taylor and despite making his first appearance of the season at this level of football he was everything you expect from him. Taylor reads the game well and his calmness on the ball at centre back was as good as always. Kiembi showed what he was capable of on occasions but Nathan McGarrity was my choice today. Playing wide right, his ability on the ball in tight areas was clear to see and he worked hard for his team defensively.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: DUTTON, LOWER, HUDSON, CAIRNS, TAYLOR, McCALLA, McGARRITY, DOWNES (Gomes 90 mins), TOWERS (Jaynes 87 mins), HARKIN, KIEMBI (King 56 mins)