03 December 2016

2016/17: Heanor Town (Midland Football League Premier Division)

When you're used to being at every match, missing one is a frustrating disruption. I've missed plenty of Coventry Sphinx games since I wandered in uninvited one sunny Saturday afternoon, but few recently. Black Country Rangers taught me a lesson too clear to ignore.

But sometimes absence is unavoidable. The recent match against Highgate United was the second I've missed at home this season and it's horrible knowing the team's playing under the lights with three points on the line while I'm somewhere else.

So I don't have the benefit of actually having seen the Highgate game, but on the face of it a draw is a respectable enough result against good quality opposition, albeit an opposition who played with ten men for as long as they did. Still, it's nice to be the ones to benefit from an early dismissal for once, and Karabo Motshenwi getting off the mark is another plus.

But last Saturday's loss at home against Quorn was a kick in the guts. We've had defeats this season, even heavy ones, that can be mitigated by poor refereeing decisions, player absences and not getting the rub of the green. Like the losses at Shawbury United, Quorn isn't one of them. And, like the second defeat in Shropshire and also the draw at Quorn at the back end of the summer, the Sphinx should have been home and hosed by half time.

When Jamie Towers buried his goal to make it 2-1 last weekend it felt as if the team had overcome a blip. Conceding from the penalty spot, not ideal by any means, had been put right and the Sphinx's lead was emphatically deserved. The first 20 minutes in particular were amongst the most dynamic, exciting and flowing periods of our season, and we got the goals to prove it.

And yet it's that spell that made the loss so hard to take. Quorn were fortunate to still be in it after 45 minutes but we can have no complaints about the manner in which we were beaten in the second half, and the early part of the game felt like a distant memory by the time the referee finally put us out of our misery.

Although my mind's eye could see Scott Dutton burying a header in the 100th minute, the truth is we never looked like scoring a third goal. (I ˆwe got to 100 minutes; there was an angry human stopwatch bawling about it right in my ear so we must have.) Missed chances in the first half did us no favours but a flubbed second half was what really cost us.

With November now in the past, we can look back on a month that contained wins and good performances as well as a couple of gut-wrenching hidings. There have been huge improvements all over the park since the first couple of months of the season, but consistency is such an evasive goal for many teams at this level.

We're no different. Stourport Swifts away will live long in my memory, but I can only hope Quorn is rather quicker to dissolve into history.

This afternoon we welcome Heanor Town, a team I'll be watching for the very first time. The Derbyshire side enjoyed a more productive November than ours. Like the Sphinx, they were beaten by St Andrews but defeated Loughborough University. In the other games, they beat Lokomotiv Moscov, drew with Stourport and beat Rocester. Only one of those wins came away from The Town Ground.

That run of games leaves them in fifth at the time of writing, twelve points off leaders Alvechurch - with three games in hand - and eight points ahead of the Sphinx. Another easy match, then!

Next weekend we're off to AFC Wulfrunians to kick off a busy few weeks and a batch of games that could go a long way towards defining our season. Before Christmas we face Sutton Coldfield Town in the Birmingham Senior Cup and Westfields at home in the league, before a Boxing Day clash against...no, sorry, it's gone. It'll come to me later, I'm sure.

After that it's Shepshed Dynamo at home, Loughborough University away and Shawbury at home. What's the point of listing these fixtures? Between now and January 7th the Sphinx have a run of fixtures that we hope could yield a decent return. Three points today would be a flying start. Up the Sphinx!