07 November 2016

2016/17: St Andrews (Midland Football League Premier Division)

Some goalless draws are enthralling. Much maligned by the unenlightened and historically held responsible for football's difficulty in gaining a popular foothold in the point-happy United States, the gripping 0-0 can be a hidden treasure of the sport. These back-and-forth battles, each more assuredly unbreached than the last, have simply got a bad press.

The nil-all draw isn't always an accident. It can be the product of two immovable defences rutting drily away, a titanic war of attrition that ends unwon.

Some are the result of monumental defensive performances that are every bit as deserving of praise as some uncouth orgy of goals. Some are the result of meticulous tactical plans executed to the letter, the ingenious spirit of Catenaccio brought to life.

Then again, some really are just goalless games with little to remember. Our 0-0 draw against Boldmere St Michaels a couple of games ago might not have been brought about by the non-league ghost of Helenio Herrera but it was a draw well earned nonetheless. The character in the Coventry Sphinx team was there for all to see by the end of October, and the point was hard won and definitely deserved.

Boldmere's league position and the Sphinx's recent wins undoubtedly made us favourites on paper, but "on paper" means nothing. Duts had to rely on a youthful side and introduced a new signing on either wing, with Brad Jones moving to right back and Scott Lower slotting in alongside Daz Eggleton.

With Luke Downes and Reece Blackmore suspended, and Aron Wint unavailable, being able to put out a team with the kind of guts we saw last Saturday is a plus. On another day we might even have nicked the win. Irrespective of Boldmere's standing in the division, the Sphinx's performance against them was determined. Overcoming the absence of some key players reflects well on the rest of the squad.

An injury to Liam Cairns in the second half meant a double substitution that brought Chris Johnston and Jackson Downie into the centre of midfield. The latter was thrown into the fray on his return from injury and it's great to see him back and available. On top of his versatility he offers something a little bit different in the middle of the park.

Jacko is a cracking option for Duts in a few positions, so it's a shame he's endured a disrupted start to the season. His early suspension and a couple of injury problems have robbed us of a Sphinx favourite, and we've also seen what he can do already this season. Fingers crossed he can get a run of games under his belt; when he does, he's a real asset.

Tonight's game sees us welcome St Andrews to Sphinx Drive, and those of us who made the trip to Leicester in September will remember pretty clearly how frustrating our previous game against the Saints was. The Sphinx couldn't find a breakthrough, and a single goal was enough to give the hosts all three points and condemn us to a first league defeat of the season.

As we enter November (the official beginning of Bovril Season, for the record) Duts and the boys have a chance to seek a different outcome in our second meeting with tonight's opposition and push on from the Boldmere game and Saturday's monstrous win at Stourport Swifts.

Despite that unbeaten run in August we have a stronger team now, especially when everyone is fit and available. A solid 90-minute performance and a positive result will be the targets this evening, and both are within our reach if the team can fire on all cylinders. Up the Sphinx!