12 November 2016

2016/17: Loughborough University (Midland Football League Premier Division)

Football supporters at every level have to take the rough with the smooth. A tiny fraction know what it's like to win every week and even they moan like mad when their team has the temerity to drop a couple of points.

I'm not convinced the few who support teams that win all the time and rack up titles actually enjoy the game any more than the rest of us. It's the bad days that make the good days count, so if I must know defeat in order to feel the true elation of victory then so be it.

And it's just as well, because last Monday's Coventry Sphinx loss against St Andrews was as rough as they come. 5-0 was a slightly inflated scoreline but we got what we deserved: a second loss against St Andrews this season and a five-star reality check.

Fortunately, the booting we got on Monday was preceded by a magnificent and memorable win at Stourport Swifts. Although I'm sure Duts will be addressing some of the problems that dogged the team's most recent performance, I hope he can enjoy the positives from two days before. There were plenty to choose from.

Stourport must be sick of the sight of us. Even in the midst of our struggles last season we were able to beat them home and away, and the dramatic conclusion to last Saturday's match will only worsen any growing thoughts that they might have found themselves a bogey side.

The first half wasn't quite right from a Sphinx point of view but the second was reminiscent of our excellent display at Walsall Wood. Two half-time substitutes and a change of shape stabilised the team and won us the game. The two subs, Ryan Harkin and Dom Alleyne, scored the first two goals in a 3-2 win.

If it took guts to come from behind and take a 2-1 lead, who knows where the boys found the spuds to do what they did at the death. Stourport made the Sphinx work hard to take an advantage into stoppage time, and finally got their equaliser as the last seconds ticked away.

To say that would have been two bad points dropped would be an understatement, but the players were having none of it. Alleyne hit the crossbar at the other end and Daz Eggleton buried the rebound. I'd like to apologise to anybody who had to endure the sight of me running half the length of the pitch. I don't know what came over me.

The same good fortune eluded our hosts, who still had time to spurn a similar opportunity of their own. If you don't know how to take the bad days on the chin in order to genuinely enjoy the good ones, little moments like that might pass you by. It went our way last weekend and the players and management earned that wink from the football gods.

There were a handful of Man of the Match candidates down by the river. It's not my place to narrow it down to a single player but there were some fine performances. I thought George Cleet grew into his debut next to Scott Lower, who was excellent again. Alleyne was fantastic from the moment he came on, and Scott Dutton made a couple of vital saves to cap a solid showing between the sticks.

As for Eggy, well, what can I say? He scored the winner, which was about his 31st or 32nd goal of the season or something ridiculous, and his new-found netting knack has been such a bonus for us in these last few months. Having said that, the day he scores a 50-yard free kick is the day I run a full lap of the pitch in celebration. In my socks.

Of course, Daz isn't really out there to score goals. Over the last month he's been in cracking form at the back, winning headers for fun and giving his opponents a tough obstacle to overcome. The consistency with which he's performed of late has been great to see and the days of conceding five goals should be few and far between with Eggy and the defenders around him in their groove.

Today's match will be another test for Eggy and the rest of the team. Loughborough University are a few places above us in the Premier Division and share our inconsistencies, but we know they're a match for most teams in this league on their day. Let's hope the Sphinx can go one better than just matching them today.