21 January 2017

2016/17: Lye Town (Midland Football League Premier Division; match postponed)

It was incredibly satisfying to see Coventry Sphinx finally get the better of Shawbury United. They'd previously beaten us twice, despite our being marginally the better side at Wem in the FA Vase and squandering enough chances to beat them three times over in the league game a week later.

At home recently it was a different story. The 3-1 win was handsomely deserved and the Sphinx were superior throughout the 90 minutes. Reece Blackmore, Callum Woodward and Luke Downes did well in the middle of the park. It's a combination that works well in our best performances.

Jamie Towers made a huge contribution too, and Nathan McGarrity's shift up front was excellent. McGarrity will be off the mark soon, I'm sure of that. Since joining the club he's run his socks off and he keeps getting himself into better and better positions. For my money, he's a very solid addition.

Woodward came away with a great deal of credit because of his direct impact on the result. His dead ball delivery is reliable and varied, and it was a clever low free kick that was smartly turned in by Blackmore to put the Sphinx ahead. Shawbury equalised with a penalty but this was our game from start to finish.

Lovely work by McGarrity won a penalty for the Sphinx and Woodward's pinpoint spot kick was later added to by the close-range header he nodded in from Aron Wint's knock-back in the second half. At 3-1 Shawbury never looked like troubling us. Any joy they did get was dealt with by another assured performance by Scott Dutton.

What was most enjoyable about the win a couple of weeks ago was that the team was able to mix it physically where required, but overall were able to rise above it. Shawbury are a tough team to play against, unrepentantly aggressive and yet in the ear of the referee from the first whistle to the last.

There's ability in there as well in some areas, but the table suggests they are usually beatable. At the time of writing, nobody in the division has lost more games this season. There's a reason for that. It was about time we joined in.

From the satisfaction of victory over Shawbury, we moved to disappointment. Not the disappointment of defeat, but one that's very nearly as bad: that of a Saturday morning postponement.

Last year's visit to Brocton was a bad day for the Sphinx, who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory to leave the travelling support soaked and sullen in Stafford. Those of us who made the trip to cheer on the team were wet through by half time. The torrential downpour of the second half added only sheer weight.

We were spared that special kind of misery last weekend thanks to the cancellation of the game because of a waterlogged pitch. I drove through Staffordshire early on Saturday afternoon and I can tell you the weather was vile. Nevertheless, it's always frustrating to miss out on a game you've been looking forward to. We've been lucky in that respect so far this season, though, so we certainly can't complain.

Today we welcome Lye Town, opposition who've become rather familiar in the last couple of seasons thanks to a couple of FA Cup meetings not so long ago. There's no doubt Lye are one of the league's most effective and clinical teams, and games in hand mean they have control of their own destiny as far as reaching the top of the league is concerned.

All of that explains why going to Lye and having a player sent off inside five minutes would be likely to leave most teams on the end of a pretty robust spanking. Whatever your opinion of Wint's red card at the Sports Ground in November, the loss that followed wasn't much of a surprise.

In fact, you could argue we did very well to be in the game at 1-0 down after 45 minutes. Some decisions went against the Sphinx in the second half, more than one of which led to the goals that eventually brought around a bit of a collapse. Lye's finishing for the goals was excellent.

Last time we played here we were able to turn losses to Shawbury back on them. On our day I honestly believe we'll give anyone in this league a game, so why not shoot for a similar outcome this afternoon?