During the week Sphinx made the decision to change their management team and new manager Lee Knibbs got off to a good start with an important three points at Sphinx Drive. Newly promoted South Normanton made them work hard for the points but the win was all that mattered today. Ryan Harkin and Callum Woodward combined for both Sphinx goals in the first half and after a battling display in the second half they had done enough to emerge victorious.
One of the first jobs for Lee Knibbs was to recruit a goalkeeper and young stopper Jake Allingan was the choice who arrived from the University of Warwick team. Other than that, the squad had a familiar look to it. There were plenty of old faces in the crowd today to see Lee Knibbs first game in charge but it was South Normanton who drew first blood. The visitors worked their way into the box and after the initial shot was blocked, Kevin Hemagou controlled the loose ball and guided a side footed volley inside the post to open the scoring in the 10th minute. Sphinx responded with a neat interchange between Woodward and McGarrity that allowed Woodward the space to play in Harkin. The striker got in his shot but he was denied by Keeling in the South Normanton goal. A Sphinx corner swiftly followed and that attack ended with defender Louis Guest inches away from levelling the scores. Harkin was soon to threaten again with a shot on the turn saved low at the near post. Another effort from Harkin soon followed but he got just too much onto the lob to trouble the visiting keeper. Harkin was having a great spell and on 25 minutes he played a major part in the Sphinx equaliser. Some good football from Sphinx released Harkin through on goal, his shot was parried but WOODWARD had continued his run into the box to be left with the simple task of firing Sphinx level into a vacant net. 1-1 mid way through the first half and Sphinx were back in the game. It was an entertaining first half with the South Normanton front two of Hemagou and Crosby causing problems and Sphinx looking lively in attack themselves. The goal scoring Sphinx defender Guest went close to getting his 4th goal of the season and was only denied by a determined block in the visitors defence. Minutes before half time South Normanton looked certain to score after they opened Sphinx up down the left but a poor final ball gave Sphinx an escape. The visitors were left to rue that missed opportunity because two minutes later on the stroke of half time Sphinx took the lead. This time the roles were reversed between Woodward and Harkin as Woodward burst into the box to pick out HARKIN who took a touch before drilling his lofted effort inside the post. The first half could have gone either way but it was Sphinx who had the lead going into the break at Sphinx Drive.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 2 SOUTH NORMANTON ATHLETIC 1
An early substitution was made by Sphinx in the second half with Rhys Deehan replacing Nathan McGarrity on the left of midfield. The second half was a little scrappy with Sphinx determined to retain their lead and South Normanton equally determined to get back on level terms. Both teams had the ball in good areas so it was difficult to predict the eventual outcome of this closely fought contest. Mid way through the second half Harkin got away down the right and after a cheeky nutmeg on the full back he fired across the face of goal where Deehan couldn’t quite stretch enough to reach the ball at the far post. Brown was then introduced to the action to add running power to the Sphinx attack as they looked for the goal to finish off the game. South Normanton were not about to give up on this game though and Sphinx had a scare in injury time with debutant keeper Allingan athletically tipping over a sliced Sphinx clearance. The visitors also hit the post very late on although an offside flag appeared to have made that irrelevant.
FULL TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 2 SOUTH NORMANTON ATHLETIC 1
Sphinx had done enough to take the points and it was as close as the score suggests. Two well crafted goals from Sphinx got them a first win since early September and ended their seven game run without a win. Next up is a Birmingham Senior Cup tie at Sphinx Drive on Wednesday with Premier League West Bromwich Albion sending a team to Coventry.
COVENTRY SPHINX MAN OF THE MATCH: RYAN HARKIN
Every single player played their part in a team performance full of determination today. A special mention for Jake Allingan who signed at the club on Friday and performed well despite not having had a training session with his new team mates. Defensively we looked sound with Quirke and Guest having a tough game against the front two of the visitors who were a handful. The midfield pair of Dakouri and Cairns worked hard as did Woodward in his attacking midfield role. Woodward scored one and set up the other as did Harkin who was also the main threat for Sphinx this afternoon. Harkin had been left on the bench for the last game but has responded magnificently with a goal at Worcester as a substitute and then the winning goal today.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: ALLINGAN, LOWER (c), STRINGFELLOW, CAIRNS, QUIRKE, GUEST, TOWERS (Brown 75 mins), DAKOURI, HARKIN (Townsend 90 mins), WOODWARD, McGARRITY (Deehan 55 mins)