Midland Football League Premier Division
Coventry Sphinx 2-0 Tividale
The 2019/20 season got off to a perfect start for Coventry Sphinx at the Ryona Engineering Supplies Stadium on Saturday. Three points and a clean sheet is an excellent way to kick off the home campaign with manager Lee Knibbs fielding a much changed squad from last season.
Substitute Ryan Palmer opened the scoring in the 77th minute with a cool finish which was his first touch for the club. Skipper Woodward sealed the points with a 90th minute penalty. Tividale will look back on a missed penalty in the first half and think things could have been different but Sphinx showed a tremendous resilience and the substitutions turned the game in their favour which ultimately got them the win.
Six players made their Coventry Sphinx debuts which included well earned starts for 16 year olds Jamie Draper and Harvey Billing. 18 year olds Max Howard, Alex Pearson and Callum Maspers were also in the squad as Lee Knibbs showed tremendous faith in the youth development system in place at the club. There was plenty of experience in the squad to balance things out with Captain Callum Woodward leading out his team. Mark Albrighton and Luke Barlone were late additions to the squad and the new recruits such as George Whitelaw, Sean Kavanagh and Lawrence Rawlings have plenty of experience behind them too. Established Sphinx players such as Louis Guest, Tom Cross and Charlie Faulkner were also in the starting line up for this opening day fixture against Tividale.
Sphinx started the brighter on an immaculate playing surface but the newly promoted visitors were soon in the game. Half chances came and went for both teams but it was Tividale who get the first clear cut opportunity when Dan Smith was bundled over in the penalty area. Webb stepped up for Tividale but his spot kick was driven wide of the post and Sphinx breathed a sigh of relief. Minutes before half time, Charlie Faulkner was involved in an unfortunate collision and it was immediately clear he would be playing no further part in this game. Faulkner’s visit to hospital resulted in a fractured shoulder diagnosis. We wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back in the sky blue and white Coventry Sphinx soon. The game continued as an even contest with both defences having the better of proceedings and we went into the break with no score.
Early in the second half we had a turning point in the game with Tividale’s Curtis Cocking shown a straight red for a badly timed challenge on Sphinx debutant Max Howard. The introduction of big centre forward Luke Barlone signalled a change of approach from Sphinx and it was a successful ploy with Barlone causing the Tividale defence a different type of problem. Speedy striker RYAN PALMER was also introduced and what an impact he made. With his first touch on his debut he outpaced the Tividale defence to get on the end of an
excellent Woodward through ball and with the keeper rushing out to intervene, he calmly lifted it over him and into the net to open the scoring. That was a critical opening goal and although Sphinx had to play ten minutes of their own with ten men after the sinbinning of Draper, they continued to attack and in the 90th minute they got the opportunity to put the game to bed. Initially the referee seemed to indicate a free kick on the edge of the box but the assistant referee was quick to convince him the foul was committed inside the box. Captain CALLUM WOODWARD was the man to take the responsibility and his good strike nestled in the back of the net to secure victory.
Tividale provided tough opposition and the new look Sphinx side had to work hard for the points today. They will be delighted to take the points and keep a clean sheet and the next league game soon comes along with a Tuesday night trip to Long Eaton in Nottingham.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: CROSS, WHITELAW (Barlone 58 mins), HOWARD, DRAPER, ALBRIGHTON, GUEST, BILLING, WOODWARD ©, KAVANAGH (R.Palmer 75 mins), FAULKNER (Pearson 44 mins), RAWLINGS.
Unused Subs: Maspers and Whitmore
MAN OF THE MATCH: CALLUM WOODWARD
16 year old debutants Jamie Draper and Harvey Billing didn’t look out of place and they have certainly given themselves every chance of featuring regularly for the first team. Last season’s Youth team Captain Max Howard also acquitted himself well. Lawrence Rawlings was a bundle of energy all game and impressed on debut and veteran centre back Mark Albrighton won just about everything that came his way. Substitutes Luke Barlone and Ryan Palmer added another dimension to the Sphinx attack and they certainly highlighted the benefits of a strong bench. The Man of the Match goes to Callum Woodward who got a goal and an assist and led his team from the front just like any captain should.
By Martin Sutton
Updated 18:41 - 4 Aug 2019 by Sharon Taylor