On Saturday we entered the last month of the season with Sphinx having already made significant progress on last season’s points tally but there was still plenty to play for with a top half finish firmly in the sights of Coventry Sphinx. This was the weekend when the focus of the City of Coventry was on Coventry City’s trip to Wembley but there was still a job to be done on this pleasant spring afternoon at Sphinx Drive.
The visitors Long Eaton came into the match on the back of a sensational victory at league leaders Alvechurch in midweek but that ensured Sphinx wouldn’t be taking them lightly. Sphinx had earned a creditable draw at home to 4th placed Lye Town in midweek and that made sure they remained undefeated in home fixtures in 2017. Just the one change for Sphinx with Jamie Towers returning to the side to bolster the Sphinx attack. A settled side makes all the difference and that showed today with Long Eaton blown away by the Sphinx attack in the first half which effectively ended the game as a contest before the break.
Referee Simon Kavanagh got the game underway and Sphinx were straight onto the front foot with a 3rd minute corner driven in low by Woodward for Harkin to head just over the bar. Harkin was provider minutes later after he pinched back possession in the Long Eaton box and floated a cross to the back post for Towers to head over from a good position. A promising start for Sphinx ended up with the opening goal on 20 minutes and it was the man in form Harkin who struck again. A long ball out of defence picked out Towers and he produced a great leap to head into the path of Harkin who was now through on goal. The keeper rushed out and the alert HARKIN calmly lobbed it over the stranded keeper and into the open net to give Sphinx the lead. The next goal didn’t take long to arrive with Harkin providing the assist this time. Harkin penetrated the Long Eaton penalty area down the left and his ball across the face of goal was stabbed home by Jamie Towers for his 12th goal of the season to maintain his ratio of a goal every two games. The threats kept coming from Sphinx and McGarrity was the next to try his luck with a drive just wide of the upright. Confidence was growing and Woodward went for a long range half volley that wasn’t far away. Just before the break the goal of the game arrived and while it was a real strikers finish from Harkin, it was McGarrity who made it a memorable one. McGarrity received the ball on the right and he tied defenders in knots as he made his way down the wing. He completed the mazy run with a perfect cross for HARKIN to steer in and the third goal for Sphinx emphasised how good they had been in this half.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 3 LONG EATON UTD 0
Sphinx started the half with Towers getting away a quick shot that flew just wide of the far post but Long Eaton went on to have a 20 minute spell that was an improvement on their first half showing. Sphinx had taken the foot off the pedal but they looked confident defensively and Dutton wasn’t really tested in the Sphinx goal during this period. On 70 minutes Lewis Hudson hit a cracking rising drive after the ball broke to him from a Sphinx corner but it was well taken by the Long Eaton keeper. Sphinx were looking fairly comfortable on their lead but with five minutes to go Callum Woodward was the driving force behind the fourth goal that was to be the hat-trick goal for Ryan Harkin. Woodward appeared to have lost the ball outside the visitors penalty area but his tenacity retrieved possession before he hit a powerful strike at goal. The ball hit the post but in true striker fashion, HARKIN reacted quickest to bury the loose ball to claim a well deserved hat-trick. Long Eaton grabbed a 90th minute consolation through Blair Anderson after Sphinx had been guilty of switching off knowing the game was won. An excellent attacking display in the first half had won the game for Sphinx and next up is a trip up the road to Coleshill Town on Saturday 8th April who are still trying to exert pressure on Alvechurch at the top of the MFL Premier Division.
MAN OF THE MATCH: RYAN HARKIN
No one had a bad game today which was reflected in the result. Right through the team we had performances to be pleased by. Scott Dutton played through injury and he can thank his defence for a relatively quiet day at the office. Liam Cairns has hit a spell of good form and broke up play superbly in the midfield. McGarrity is a joy to watch with his willingness to commit defenders and Towers looked in good form up front. Woodward was excellent again in the midfield and his leadership makes a difference to the team but how can I ignore Ryan Harkin? A hat-trick and an assist for the other goal makes him the obvious choice and he completed a fine day for him personally by being awarded the March player of the month after the game.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: DUTTON, LOWER, HUDSON, DOWNES, McCALLA, EGGLETON, McGARRITY (Adjei 86 mins), WOODWARD, TOWERS, HARKIN (Williams 86 mins), CAIRNS (Jaynes 77 mins)