PIC: Sphinx Man of the Match Luke Downes
An incredible effort by volunteers got this local derby on after a great amount of indecision by the officials. Initially the pitch was passed fit by a local referee but the match referee wasn’t so sure. After initially appearing to call off the game 15 minutes before kick off, he then stated the game was going ahead but not before a number of players had already left the premises. Once we got over the chaotic pre- match scenes we got the game underway at 3.15pm.
Lee Knibbs was drastically under strength today with key forward Harkin and Towers out of the side, left back Rhys Deehan unavailable and regular centre back Michael Quirke pulling out with injury in the warm up. In came Youth defender Reece Stowe to replace Quirke and Youth defender Danny Bull got a last minute call up to the bench.
Despite the uncertainty about the status of the game, we managed a healthy crowd of 167 for this local derby and while quality was lacking from both sides today with the conditions, we still had an enthralling game to watch at Sphinx Drive. Rugby took the early advantage with Wiggins-Thomas tucking away a low ball into the box by Hendrie. Sphinx responded with a well struck drive from Donaldson which Cooper was equal to in the Rugby goal. Faulkner then did brilliantly to retrieve possession and turned to head straight for goal and force a great save from the visitors keeper. Sphinx were looking lively in this spell and Woodward broke away down the left to cross for Sterling who agonisingly watched his shot cleared off the line by an alert Rugby defender. The contest was closely fought and the pitch was holding up well considering the unwillingness of some to allow the game to go ahead.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 0 RUGBY TOWN 1
Rugby had the one goal advantage but this game could still go either way at this stage. Sphinx came close to equalising from a corner with Guest timing his leap superbly to fire a header just wide of the Rugby goal. Around the hour mark Sphinx made two substitutions with Ben Cranage making his Sphinx debut on the right and Alex Bonkar making his Sphinx debut on the left. Just after the changes Faulkner forced a sharp save from Rugby’s Cooper as they continued to look for the equaliser. Time was running out for Sphinx as we approached the final ten minutes and then the stuffing was knocked out of their attempts to level with the dismissal of Callum Woodward. “Woody” had got involved in a tangle with Kolodynski on the touchline and the referee sent off Woodward for his part in proceedings. Rugby seized on their opportunity with Wiggins-Thomas releasing Hendrie on the left and he went on to finish with all the time in the world. That crucial minute had reduced Sphinx to ten men and saw Rugby get the key second goal. Late in the game Hendrie got his second with Sphinx now open with their man disadvantage and their desire to get forward to find a way back into the game. Sphinx never stopped and they scored the goal of the game with a dipping long range drive from Ben CRANAGE beating the Rugby keeper to give Sphinx a consolation goal.
The scoreline was harsh on Sphinx and they finished the game with 5 players under 20 on the pitch. They lacked a consistent threat up front but with the two leading scorers absent that was no surprise really. The game could have been different with the Rugby keeper making at least two top draw saves and a goal line clearance preventing Sphinx from scoring earlier.
COVENTRY SPHINX MAN OF THE MATCH: LUKE DOWNES
Louis Guest returned from a brief injury to lead the defence and he went close to scoring himself. Lower and Stringfellow both played with knocks and that’s the sort of leadership you hope to see from your experienced players. Faulkner was a bundle of energy up front and was unlucky not score. Luke Downes stood out for me with his ball retention and ability to play the ball on a tricky surface. He was brave on the ball and performed well for his club today.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: TREGARTHA, LOWER (c), STRINGFELLOW, CAIRNS, STOWE (Cranage 59 mins), GUEST, DONALDSON (Bonkar 62 mins), WOODWARD, STERLING, DOWNES, FAULKNER. Unused subs: Quirke, Harkin, Bull