Coventry Sphinx returned from 5th place Khalsa with a well deserved point and the perfect response to their defeat the previous weekend. There was no doubting the desire amongst the squad with a spirited showing against tough opposition. Sphinx had their chances but Khalsa came on strong in the last ten minutes and a combination of good defending and excellent goalkeeping ensured Sphinx returned to Coventry with a point.
Key players Jamie Towers, Ryan Harkin and Louis Guest were all missing. Aaron Stringfellow continued to fill in at centre back for Louis Guest and Aaron Donaldson and Chris Sterling replaced Towers and Harkin in the side. Youth team players Reece Stowe and Alex Bonkar took places on the bench too.
Sporting Khalsa are currently playing their home fixtures at AFC Wulfrunians while they have a 3G pitch installed at The Aspray Arena and the Wulfrunians pitch looked in good condition for the time of year. Sphinx have a good record at Wulfrunians but a poor away record at Sporting Khalsa although Sphinx had already beaten Khalsa this season in the fixture at Sphinx Drive. We were expecting a physical contest from Khalsa and that combined with their often direct style of play has caused Sphinx problems in the past. Sphinx stood strong tonight and proved they are more than capable of handling that style of play. It was a balanced opening to the contest with Sphinx looking to play when the chance arose and Khalsa employing the tactic of long diagonal balls from the full backs frequently. Sphinx were firmly establishing themselves in the game and by the half hour mark they were getting on top of the game. Sphinx created an excellent chance after half an hour with a move that started deep in their own half and ended with a brilliant reaction save from a Faulkner volley after being set up by Sterling. Sphinx were now having a good spell and Sterling threatened the goal after a mazy run at the heart of the Khalsa defence. Half time came and Sphinx would have been the happier of the two sides at this point after taking the game to their hosts in the first half.
HALF TIME: SPORTING KHALSA 0 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
Sphinx continued to take the game to Khalsa and some neat play on the edge of the box created the opportunity for Downes to strike at goal and although he caught it sweetly, it was well caught by the Khalsa keeper. Faulkner was the next to try his luck for Sphinx but his curling effort didn’t curl in enough to trouble the keeper. Khalsa’s response was to force Sphinx into a goal line clearance with neither side seemingly content with the draw. Sphinx keeper Jack Tregartha then did well to push over another Khalsa effort during a brief spell of Khalsa pressure. Sphinx came back with Faulkner and Donaldson combining well and a lunging defender nicked the ball away from Faulkner as he looked to put away Donaldson’s cross. The resulting corner was met by the head of Quirke but he couldn’t keep his effort down from a great position. Scott Lower appeared to be struggling with a knock and he was replaced by Sam Wanless who has recently joined Sphinx from GNP Sports. The last ten minutes belonged to Khalsa and the spell of pressure was triggered by a long range shot hitting the Sphinx cross bar. Sphinx keeper Tregartha was suddenly in the thick of action and he stood up to the test superbly. Tregartha dealt with a one on one with confidence to thwart Khalsa and produced an excellent stop minutes later and got the touch of luck he deserved when the rebound was fired over his bar. Khalsa also had a shout for a penalty that was ignored by the well placed referee but Sphinx had deserved a point at least and that was exactly what they got.
A clean sheet at one of the leading sides in the division is always something to be pleased with and Sphinx created themselves some opportunities too. Overall a very pleasing display on the road again and Sphinx can take that encouraging showing into their next fixture which is at Sphinx Drive on Saturday when Rugby Town visit for an Easter derby.
COVENTRY SPHINX MAN OF THE MATCH: CALLUM WOODWARD
It was one of those good team performances where it was difficult to single anyone out. Goalkeeper Jack Tregartha was excellent when required and is settling into the side really well. The defence were kept busy and stood up to the challenge magnificently. Quirke led from the back ably assisted by two experienced heads Lower and Stringfellow and Deehan who was once again excellent. Deehan is a powerful player and I’ve yet to see anyone get the better of him physically. Luke Downes is getting back into his stride and is becoming the player we all know again. Faulkner worked his socks off and was unlucky not to score but my choice is Callum Woodward. Three words for Callum – Leader, warrior, worker. He had all three in abundance and he can play a bit as well!
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM:
TREGARTHA, LOWER (c) (Wanless 67 mins), DEEHAN, CAIRNS, QUIRKE, STRINGFELLOW, DONALDSON, WOODWARD, STERLING, DOWNES, FAULKNER. Unused subs: Bonkar, Cranage, Stowe, Guest