The old cliché says “there are no easy games in this league” and bottom of the league Shawbury proved that point yesterday with a display that suggests they have every chance of climbing the table. Sphinx had their chances, particularly early on, but Shawbury settled into the match and they were disappointed not to win it in the end with a thunderous strike off the cross bar in the dying minutes of the match. Sphinx came away from Ludlow with their unbeaten run intact but they had a warning ringing loud in their ears that they have to be on their game against any side in this division.
Lee Knibbs took his squad on their longest trip of the season with two key players left at home. Callum Woodward and Charlie Faulkner were serving suspensions and they were replaced by the returning Jean Dakouri and Rhys Deehan. Lee Knibbs chose to take three of the Coventry Sphinx Under 18’s team with him to Shropshire and Steven Stanbrook, Reece Stowe and Matt McPolin took places on the substitutes bench. Shawbury have only played six league matches at home this season and that included the scalp of Worcester City so despite their lowly league position there was reason to believe they would be difficult opposition. Sphinx had beaten Shawbury earlier in the season at Sphinx Drive but Shawbury ran them close that day. A confidence boosting win at local rivals Haughmond should have also left them in a good frame of mind for today’s match at the Ludlow Stadium.
Coventry Sphinx started the game well and had a number of early chances that suggested Shawbury could be in for a long afternoon. The first chance came for Harkin inside the first two minutes but his effort was thwarted by the keeper after he had pinched the ball from the defender. A minute later Harkin had another chance after a Towers flick on had sent him through on goal and he looked certain to score when the keeper slipped but the Shawbury shot stopper recovered well to keep out Harkin again. Right back Scott Lower was next to threaten with a shot over the bar and then Harkin had a chance from a corner but his shot was wide of the target. Ten minutes gone and Shawbury had weathered the early storm and went about getting themselves into the game. Jake Allingan still remained largely untroubled but Shawbury were really growing into the game. Sphinx responded with an attack that saw a Harkin shot blocked before an impressive long range drive from Donaldson that the keeper did well to keep out. Shawbury were starting to threaten the goal themselves and a smart save was needed from Allingan to keep the scores level. Shawbury then missed a glorious chance to go in front when they stabbed the ball wide from close range. Harkin was the man getting the opportunities for Sphinx and he saw his effort go just over the bar before Shawbury forced a fine save from Allingan from a free kick just before the break.
HALF TIME: SHAWBURY UNITED 0 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
Lee Knibbs wasted little time in introducing Chris Sterling to his attack with midfielder Rhys Deehan making way after making his first start for months. Sterling was soon in the action and he was brought down to allow Sphinx to deliver a free kick into the Shawbury box but Tower’s usual accuracy escaped him and his header was too high to trouble the keeper. Just after the hour Harkin was through on goal but the Shawbury keeper again stood up to the test with a good stop to deny Harkin. Shawbury were growing in confidence and looked like they really fancied their chances of winning this game now. They forced Sphinx to defend for periods and a combination of an in form Allingan and some wayward shooting meant we remained goal less. Coventry Sphinx introduced Youth team striker Steve Stanbrook at left midfield for the last 2o minutes who replaced the tiring Dakouri on his comeback. Another Youth player joined the play soon after with Reece Stowe taking up a right midfield position for Donaldson. Shawbury were now looking the most likely to pinch the points at this late stage and they were inches away from doing it with a superb long range strike thumping the Sphinx cross bar. Sphinx were still looking for the winner themselves but neither team could find that all important goal in the end. An important point for the hosts and a point Sphinx had to be pleased about in the end. Any point away from home is a good point ultimately but it could have been a win for either side with better finishing. A draw was a fair result but Shawbury will look to the late effort that rattled the Sphinx bar and think what could have been.
Coventry Sphinx are back on home soil on Saturday when they welcome Loughborough University to Sphinx Drive for their next league fixture. 11 league games unbeaten and sitting in fourth place in the MFL Premier Division gives Sphinx plenty to play for.
FULL TIME: SHAWBURY UNITED 0 COVENTRY SPHINX 0
COVENTRY SPHINX MAN OF THE MATCH: JAKE ALLINGAN
Ryan Harkin got himself into some good positions that gave him opportunities to score but today wasn’t his day although on another day he would have been walking away with a hat-trick. Towers again played most of the game in central midfield areas and his quality was apparent. Important minutes in the bank for both Dakouri and Deehan should see them get back to their best soon. The centre half pair of Quirke and Guest were worked hard today and will be pleased with the clean sheet as will the goalkeeper Jake Allingan. You can’t ask for much more than a clean sheet from your keeper and Jake produced again today.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: ALLINGAN, LOWER (c), STRINGFELLOW, CAIRNS, QUIRKE, GUEST, TOWERS, DAKOURI (Stanbrook 73 mins), HARKIN, DONALDSON (Stowe 79 mins), DEEHAN (Sterling 52 mins)