FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Coventry Sphinx 1-1 Coventry Utd - Attendance 480
This game needed little build up with these two Coventry Non-League teams meeting in the FA Cup for the first time. Sphinx have had the better of recent matches but the form book can go out the window in games of this type.
The Ryona Engineering Supplies Stadium (formerly known as Sphinx Drive) accommodated close to 500 spectators for this cup tie and a blustery wind was to prove difficult to contain. The pitch was in perfect condition though and we were underway in the opening round of the 2019/20 FA Cup.
Sphinx had made changes from the side beaten at Long Eaton. Tom Cross returned in goal with the experienced Whitelaw coming into defence, Rawlings returned to the Sphinx attack and Harvey Billing was re-instated to the Sphinx midfield. Less than 30 seconds into the contest, Coventry Sphinx almost took an early lead with a long range Rawlings header going over the bar with Coventry Utd caught cold. Coventry Utd, with the wind in their favour, went on to have the better of the first half and they were left frustrated by a disallowed offside goal that would surely have counted if the player at the back post hadn’t applied the final touch. Sphinx defended resiliently and they were proving a tough nut to crack in the first half but it was a game of few clear-cut chances for either side.
The second half got going with Sphinx now having the wind behind them and both sides continued to give it everything they had to break the deadlock. It was Sphinx who found the opening goal with 16 year old midfielder Harvey Billing the scorer. BILLING was rewarded for his tenacity on the edge of the Coventry Utd box when he eventually wriggled free to move into the penalty area and hit an excellent strike on the turn that cannoned off the inside of the far post and into the net. Wardle made a valiant effort to save the strike but he couldn’t get to it and Sphinx were 1-0 up just after the hour mark.
Coventry Utd were still well in the game and continued to put the ball into dangerous areas as they pushed for an equaliser. A number of substitutions followed and chances came and went for both sides. Coventry Utd hadn’t given up on this game yet and they got their reward for persistence with minutes left on the clock. There were seven former Sphinx players in the Coventry Utd squad so it was always likely that one of them would have an impact. It was former Sphinx man Gardner who was in the right place to nod in at the back post to equalise after a deep cross came in from the Sphinx left. A tense final few minutes followed but the game ended all square and a replay now awaits the two sides.
The replay will take place on Wednesday 14th August at Daventry Town’s Communications Park. The tie will be settled with extra time and penalties if necessary on Wednesday.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: CROSS, WHITELAW, HOWARD, BILIC, ALBRIGHTON, GUEST, PALMER (Tufan 66 mins), WOODWARD ©, BARLONE (Billy 90 mins), BILLING (Noon 80 mins), RAWLINGS
Unused Subs: O’Connor, Kavanagh, Pearson
MAN OF THE MATCH: ADAM BILIC
A vastly improved team performance from the midweek league fixture at Long Eaton. Louis Guest and Mark Albrighton formed a solid pairing at the back and full backs Whitelaw and Howard worked hard to support them. Luke Barlone provided a physical presence up front with Palmer and Rawlings working hard around him. Billing played well in midfield and capped his display with a fine goal but it was the engine room of Woodward and Bilic that stood out for me. Adam Bilic was exactly the player we knew we had recruited in the summer. Hardworking, disciplined and more than willing to tackle, he epitomised the Sphinx spirit.