Coventry Sphinx returned to home soil on Saturday after a hard earned point on the road the previous weekend and showed the all too familiar spirit to take the points against a lively Loughborough University side. Two goals of real quality from Charlie Faulkner and Ryan Harkin won the game for Sphinx and that took their run to 7 consecutive home wins and 12 games unbeaten home and away. The students worked them hard for it but they couldn’t recover from the two goal deficit that had put Sphinx into a winning position.
Manager Lee Knibbs still had key midfielder Callum Woodward suspended so Jamie Towers continued in his central midfield role. Charlie Faulkner returned from his own suspension to add another dimension to the Sphinx attack and Sterling resumed his position up front to complete the changes to the team. Historically, matches against the University usually produce a below average attendance but there was a good three figure crowd in attendance today. People are starting to respond to the form Coventry Sphinx are in and the crowds are reflecting that.
Ryan Harkin was the first to get a sight of goal but a shot over the bar from an unsurprising bobble on a tough pitch left the visiting keeper untested. Sphinx didn’t have to wait too long to open the scoring and what a goal it was! Charlie FAULKNER received the ball on the left and drifted inside to execute a perfectly lifted shot to leave the keeper with no chance. An outstanding goal from Faulkner that opened the scoring in the 14th minute. Harkin took on the challenge set by Faulkner and produced a superb goal of his own minutes later to double the Sphinx lead. Harkin received a ball in a similar position on the left and attacked the full back to leave him out of the game. HARKIN then reached the by-line before cutting back to create an angle to fire past an exposed keeper. 2-0 on 18 minutes with two high quality goals.
Loughborough have a reputation for playing attractive football and they certainly looked to play their way through a Sphinx rear guard but Sphinx were coping with their attacks up to now. Loughborough were showing no signs of giving up on this game and just before half time Sphinx had keeper Jake Allingan to thank for maintaining their two goal cushion when he brilliantly tipped over a long range strike that looked a certain goal until his athletic intervention.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 2 LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY 0
It was a bright start to the second half from the students although they couldn’t make a number of corners count. The clinical nature of Sphinx attacks showed it’s hand again with Towers surging forward to whip in a cross of real quality that Faulkner did well to get down to but the keeper gratefully collected the effort. Towers powered forward again soon after with Harkin the beneficiary of his through ball this time. Harkin drove forward and hit a stinging shot that the keeper was equal to although it took him two attempts to get hold of the ball. A corner followed for Sphinx as they were establishing a good spell and Harkin cleverly flicked a near post header that just evaded the goal. Sterling also went close when he expertly took down a high ball to shoot on the turn but his fierce strike was too high to trouble the goal with the keeper struggling to cover the shot. Loughborough were a threat themselves during this period and they were working Sphinx hard when they were in possession. The visitors moved the ball quickly as they looked to create opportunities but they found Allingan in fine form between the sticks when they did break through the Sphinx defence. Ben Last got one back in the 73rd minute which only served to offer the visitors further encouragement. Sphinx repelled a number of corners and some bright attacking play to retain their lead but Loughborough were increasing the pressure with some good possession football. Sphinx were now offering a sporadic attacking threat as their focus increased on protecting their own goal. Sphinx could have extended their lead after good wing play from Harkin but there was no one in the six yard box to take advantage of his fizzed in cross. Harkin then dribbled his way into the box to force a good save from the Loughborough keeper but Loughborough had the last word with a long range drive that Allingan kept out with a flying save after it looked destined for the top corner.
Sphinx can look back on their tremendous team spirit and attitude for the reasons for this victory. Two goals of excellent quality added to a defensive resolve that impresses week by week proved to be the winning combination again. Loughborough can consider themselves unfortunate not to take at least a point from the game and they performed well with the look of a side who will be giving teams a lot of trouble in the coming months. Sphinx can be proud of the effort they put in yet again and got the rewards their desire had earned.
Sphinx are next in action on Saturday when they welcome Stourport Swifts to Sphinx Drive.
COVENTRY SPHINX MAN OF THE MATCH: MICHAEL QUIRKE
This unbeaten run has been all about the team ethic from every single player but there were some stand out performances on Saturday. Faulkner and Harkin both came up with goals of real quality again. Towers was excellent in centre midfield and he looked after the ball superbly in congested areas. The defence were kept busy all afternoon and Full Backs Lower and Stringfellow put in a big shift. The centre back partnership looked strong again but Michael Quirke is my pick this time. He’s strong and difficult to beat both in the air and on the deck. He also reads the game well and displayed great leadership skills when it really mattered.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: ALLINGAN, LOWER (c), STRINGFELLOW, CAIRNS, QUIRKE, GUEST, TOWERS, DAKOURI, HARKIN, STERLING, FAULKNER (Deehan 70 mins), Unused subs: Donaldson, Stowe, Bonkar, McPolin