Saturday, 3 December 2016


3 DEC 2016 --- 3PM
A lovely free kick from Thomas King allowed Coventry the chance to claim all three points in this close affair that saw the visitors Heanor reduced to 10 men late on in the game when Chris Smith was shown a second yellow card.
The idea was not to go too far today but when this one came onto the radar last night I decided to go for it having seen Sphinx at Walsall Wood last season a visit to Sphinx Drive was on the cards.
As ever departure from base station found me sitting down on the first train of the day admittedly hopping between reserved and non reserved seats anyway at Derby I had the pleasure of getting into conversation with Bob a Hammers fan who was off down to see West Ham take on Arsenal.  Football clubs are so lucky with the loyalty fans show with Bob holding a season ticket making regular trips down to the former Olympic Stadium, as ever it was great to catch up with a fellow football fan and the 20 minutes to Leicester flew by.  The next part of the journey is always difficult with 2 carriage XCountry trains being the order of the day and this weekend its the Birmingham Christmas Market, something I was not aware of before deciding on this game.  Heaving platform became heaving train with double standing down the aisles and the door entrance area being a no personal space zone still we all got on with it and thankfully I was off after 20 minutes in Nuneaton leaving some people another 40 minutes of this.  Hopefully when the fares go up soon somebody can buy some more rolling stock? A dash over to platform 1 saw the London Midland service offering 2 carriages but it was once again a standing opportunity with many people travelling an alternative way to Birmingham.  Approaching Coventry we stopped at the Coventry Arena station for The Ricoh Stadium now home of The Wasps and of course Coventry City and sadly not safe enough to be used on match days!
Soon departing in Coventry and let me say here a city I have visited on quite a few occasions in the past and always enjoyed it, but today it seemed so dated.  Most of the centre including the station was like a retro visit to the 70's, I'm normally ok at navigating around places but even with the phone maps turned on I was constantly checking and took a few wrong turns.  There does seem to be a distinct lack of street name signs in evidence and the overall sprawl of this centre doesn't make navigation easy.
After a stroll around the market and a look at Lady Godiva astride her horse I took the footpath that dissects Coventry old and new Cathedral I wont go into the history most will of course know the story but it never ceases to amaze me £6 to go into the new Cathedral!  Having declined the offer there was time to take a trip down memory road, Highfield Road, to take a look at where the former Coventry City FC home was.  On quite a few occasions in the past I visited this ground with its sky blue tip up seats it became England's first all seat stadium and produced one of the smallest, size wise, programmes in the football league in the 80's.
The new houses were built on the site of the former stands and car parks and interestingly the space in the middle was left as a green area and play ground and this was on the pitch site.  So albeit a few years late I stood on the Coventry City pitch today, of sorts, it was warming to see that the area has a little plinth with a blue plaque marking the clubs former ground its home since 1899.  After a moments pause it was time to leave Signet Square and if you listened quietly you could still hear the roar of the crowd.
Off to the Binley Rd and the Stoke Green area and on the walk to the ground a lovely local landmark the Joseph Levi clock left in memory of the local philanthropist thankfully local people had got together to restore it and a credit to the area it is.  It was soon time to turn off towards Siddeley Avenue and herein lies another story.
The site of the Coventry Sphinx Sports club is the former home of the Armstrong Siddeley group, makers of the unique car, sports club site.  A long road leads you to the club house which is smart inside but also has that 70's Coventry feel about it from outside.  Anyway a small deposit was left behind the bar before entering the ground through a large full size turnstile at this point you immediately cross the players entrance which is a nice little leg stretch from the changing rooms which are upstairs above the club.
Behind the goal are the clubs business features raffle seller, tea cabin and programme sellers hut with small selection of items available too.  The ground is a 2 3/4 side affair we have come in behind the goals and walking around the far side has The Willie Knibbs Stand which is split into bench seating and covered, but all flat standing.  Towards the far goal its hard standing and the opposite touchline is a non spectating area.  The boundaries around the ground are a few yards from the pitch and its always a shame to be a little away from the action.  The ground is quite exposed in this cool afternoon with the main pitches surrounded on 3 sides by other playing areas.
Thankfully the teams were easily obtained and even though the crowd was a small 52 with I guess 20 from Heanor the club made good PA announcements and posted a full team sheet inside the ground.  The match programme at £1.50 is also a creditable effort, lovely to have something to read in a programme for a change well done Coventry Sphinx.
So to the game and Heanor have picked up some form of late and are pushing up the table but Sphinx are not far behind and a tight affair looked on the cards and so it proved.  Nick Hall tested Scott Dutton in the home goal before all sorts of chaos developed in the Heanor goalmouth that somehow resulted in a Sphinx effort being blocked when a goal looked a certainty.  On 39 minutes King went off on a weaving run for Sphinx but after all his good work he fired over from close range.  On the stroke of half time Jay Cooper worked hard to create an opportunity to cross and when the ball found Nathan Benger at the far post it would not come down quick enough and he fired over.
The first half had got a little feisty in stages and in fairness to what I shall mention later the referee was probably dealing with a fair bit of attention from both sides.
The only goal of the game came on 57 minutes as Heanor were looking off the pace and lethargic they conceded a free kick 20 yards out and when substitute King stepped up he crashed the ball in off the underside of the bar.
It looked game over for the visitors but they did muster themselves into some efforts in the closing stages but as they pushed on they were in danger of course of leaving themselves open at the back.  Dutton saved well for the home side on 76 minutes to give Heanor a corner but it was game over on 87 minutes when referee Richard Cutts harshly showed a second yellow card to Chris Smith and reduced the visitors to ten men.
Here is the observation that I find hard because I very rarely comment negatively on referees I like to acknowledge their difficulties and I'm sure today was a tough game to control in the middle.  I didn't keep a card count but we must have been nearing a Clinton Card festive box of 10, it just seemed way over the top with I believe an assessor in attendance its the same old story.  Referees under pressure who of course want to progress but as ever when the 'assessor is in the stand' the cards come out and fussiness takes over.  The frustrating thing is officialdom never admits it but it would be interesting to see the referee when there is no assessor there and I guess today we may have seen 3-4 cautions.
By the final whistle the result had just about gone the correct way thanks to a lovely strike and we were soon on the way back into Coventry on the bus and trying to negotiate myself to the railway station.  As I meandered around the food stoppage area and then the toilets I very nearly missed the train I though it was to depart 20 minutes later than it was scheduled too!  Back in Nuneaton and upon arrival it was to be another breathe in journey at least this time at Hinckley the whole carriage eased up to allow comfortable standing.
In Leicester the connecting train was running late and when it did arrive in there was a concern with Leicester Tigers fans out in numbers that seats would be at a premium but thankfully one was secured and we were back in base station at around 8pm.
Today was a nice journey back to a city I had not visited for a while I must take a look here again soon and find my way around a little better than I did today.  For those concerned readers there were no fish and chips consumed today!

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