Match Report 16.04.22 Sphinx 1-2 Harborough Town

Match Report 16.04.22 Sphinx 1-2 Harborough Town

By Sharon Taylor
16 April
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By Chris Nee


On Easter Saturday, Coventry Sphinx were defeated inside 90 minutes for the first time
since early January. A 2-1 win at Sphinx Drive took promoted Harborough Town to the brink
of the Uhlsport United Counties League Premier Division South title.
With captain Callum Woodward unavailable, Lewis Noon reverted to the centre of midfield
along with Jack Downes and Sufyan Zia. Loz Rawlings came back in at right wing back, with
Callum Martin continuing on the left.
Stand-in captain Louis Guest was flanked at centre back by Jamie Draper and James
Bryson, with Tom Cross in goal and Matthew Shipman up front with top goalscorer Callum
Stewart.
Harborough showed from the start that they’re a highly competent side built for promotion,
but Sphinx’s attitude was right and they fought hard from kick-off. They were good on the ball
early on, too, and produced the match’s first shot on target.
Shipman drove in from the right wing and played a composed cut-back to the edge of the
box. Just outside, Zia arrived to send a first-time shot towards goal with the inside of his right
foot. Harborough goalkeeper Elliott Taylor was well positioned and made a comfortable save.
After a header over for the away team failed to threaten Cross at the other end, Sphinx’s
pressing forced Taylor into a mistake in the 14th minute. He swung at and missed a
clearance and Stewart looked to capitalise. Taylor recovered in time to thwart Stewart’s finish
from a tight angle.
Harborough’s direct football gained them a foothold in the middle of the half and Cross was
soon called into action, clawing the last of a succession of corner kicks out from under his
crossbar. Cruelly, they would soon take the lead not from a set piece of their own, but for the
home team.
The visitors broke on Sphinx in the 22nd minute and made them pay for getting numbers
forward and being unable to stop the counter. Harborough would later show exactly how that
can be done at the small cost of a yellow card.
The opening goal was disappointing from a Sphinx point of view but Joel Carta’s fine finish
into the bottom corner completed the task and gave Harborough the lead.
Sphinx were stung into action. In the first half, they were frequently able to get in behind the
visitors – not least on one occasion where the match referee elected not to play the
advantage with Stewart going clear on goal – but Harborough’s defending in those situations
was resolute.
In the 28th minute the home team equalised. Noon’s excellent flat delivery from the corner
wasn’t his first of the match and wouldn’t be his last. Skipper Guest thumped an unstoppable
header beyond Taylor and into the Harborough net.
Sphinx then enjoyed their best spell of the half, performing well all over the pitch and edging
the game. But Harborough were also playing their best football so far, starting to move the
ball around with pace and precision, and keeping the home centre backs honest throughout.
With 38 minutes played and Harborough beginning to apply some pressure, one of their long
throw-ins went beyond Cross. Rawlings headed it off the line, though at the time it wasn’t
clear whether or not it had taken a touch before it reached him there.
Sphinx had to ride out a couple of difficult patches but headed into the dressing room at half
time after a really decent shift all over and plenty of quality shown in the first 45 minutes –
maximum effort from the boys in sky blue and white, as always.
They started the second half in much the same fashion as the first and again generated the
first meaningful opportunity. Getting in behind the Harborough defence once more, Shipman
took his time and coolly picked Stewart out in front of goal.
The Sphinx forward looked odds-on to score after a sharp first touch but he was denied by
an excellent tackle at the last moment.
Harborough’s football grew more direct as the game progressed. Bryson, Draper and
especially Guest had to put in massive performances aerially to keep them at bay through a
string of long passes forward and throw-ins deep into the danger zone.
It was an exciting contest, albeit without a great deal of goalmouth action, and Sphinx were
more than playing their part. In the 62nd minute the visitors were temporarily reduced to ten
men when the referee demonstrated his willingness to use the sin bin.
Sphinx were unable to really turn the screw and translate the man advantage into a genuine
chance during those crucial ten minutes. They came close to scoring from a strike with a
high degree of difficulty, though, and it came from an unexpected source.
After winning a header on the edge of the box from a long free kick out of defence, captain
Guest was able to quickly adjust his feet and snaffle a partial clearance 25 yards from goal.
He stepped in-field and whipped a right-footed strike towards goal. Taylor made a
spectacular diving save to keep the game level with Harborough down a player.
Sphinx were doing well but needed that one golden opportunity to take advantage. It never
really came. After dealing with another barrage of long throws, they impressively found
another gear, tried to get on the front foot and eventually won a corner with five minutes
remaining. Draper won the header but it flashed wide.
Harborough also got their big moment and they made it pay. With three minutes left, they
were awarded an avoidable free kick wide on their right and delivered it beyond the back
post. Cross had to make a save but Nathanael Ansu was on hand to tap it over the line and
steal two vital points at the death.
They ended the day on 98 points and that doesn’t happen by accident. Winning teams score
late goals when they really matter and it’s important that Sphinx keep their heads up in the
remaining week of the season. Nevertheless, losing in such a manner always hurts like hell.
Despite the result this was a continuation of Sphinx's high levels of performance in 2022.
The team showed character in abundance and were narrowly beaten by opponents with
plenty left to play for.
With just two matches remaining, Sphinx came out of this loss bruised and frustrated but
determined to finish on a high. To come away disappointed not to get something after being
level for more than 80 minutes against the likely league winners says everything you need to
know about this team.
Teamsheet
Cross, Draper, Martin, J. Downes, Guest, Bryson, Rawlings, Zia (Billing), Shipman, Stewart,
Noon (L. Downes). Unused subs: J. Kennedy, Stringfellow, Dumbleton
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