14 December 2016

2016/17: Sutton Coldfield Town (Birmingham Senior Cup Second Round)

Back-to-back wins shouldn't be taken for granted. Coventry Sphinx's start to December brought us two victories and six vital league points, and the team had to work hard for them every one of them. Twice they dug in and twice they were able to use that as the springboard for their ability to shine.

The performance against Heanor Town back in the first weekend of December gave us exactly the kind of win I want to see more often from this team. The Sphinx didn't blow away the visitors, nor did they nick a fluky victory. They played the game that needed to be played.

Heanor ended the afternoon on the wrong end of a 1-0 result but still in the top five, which makes the win all the more impressive. The Derbyshire side might not have looked much on the day, but it's easy to see where their nine previous wins had come from. They came to Sphinx Drive to battle for a win.

What's so pleasing about that win is that the team did the dirty work that was required and then had the quality to edge them into a lead that rarely looked under threat. Every one of the players fought for the team and didn't allow physical opposition - opposition that frequently flirted with the forbidden - to stand in their way.

When the Sphinx had the ball we looked the better side, particularly in the second half. Jamie Towers and substitute Tom King on the flanks were vital components in that second period and did their job superbly. Ahead of them, Ryan Harkin looked a threat and stretched the game to our benefit.

But it was the return of Kieran McCalla and welcome appearance for Jamie McAteer that gave the Sphinx the defensive platform to win it. McAteer was dominant at centre back and Daz Eggleton's quality was evident alongside him. McCalla and Scott Lower completed a back four that deserved its clean sheet, ably assisted by some sharp saves by Scott Dutton.

Patience was the name of the game and when the winner came it was worth the wait. The Sphinx were inexplicably awarded a free kick for a foul that took place a couple of yards inside the penalty area, but King made sure the error didn't cost us. His brilliant free kick crashed in off the crossbar. Just as well.

A week later we were victorious again, this time at a drenched Castlecroft. A 4-1 Sphinx win against AFC Wulfrunians was richly deserved, and the rub of the green was demonstrated with the first meaningful attacks. Wulfrunians were denied a penalty, I assume because of the advantage that followed but wasn't signalled or exploited, and the Sphinx scored with their first shot. Callum Woodward's finish after racing off Harkin's shoulder had to be crisp, and it was.

Eggleton's cross found Towers later in the half, and JT buried his header. Wulfrunians pulled one back just before the break and we had to play ourselves back into the ascendancy after a difficult start to the second half.

Eventually the difference in quality came to bear and we enjoyed two more late goals. First, substitute Jackson Downie smartly clipped one in to make it 3-1. Towers got a toe and his name on the fourth but it was made by another sub, Karabo Motshweni. His sensational solo run began with a nutmeg so nasty it came with a parental advisory warning.

It was another terrific team performance but on this occasion one man in particular was outstanding. Reece Blackmore - or "Reece Blackmore in association with the Football Fives Podcast" to give him his official name - was phenomenal. It's safe to say Wulfrunians saw him in a new light this time around.

In tonight's Birmingham Senior Cup meeting we face Sutton Coldfield Town, who find themselves in a spot of bother in the Northern Premier. Ten away league defeats is the joint-most in their division and the teams around them in the bottom four have games in hand. With Richard Sneekes now in place as manager and the early whiff of improved fortunes in the league, it'll be interesting to see what kind of team Sutton put out tonight.

Whatever they do, our boys have their tails up. The league wins are fantastic and are rightly the priority. But who doesn't love a little cup run?