Coventry United were founded by a group of disillusioned Coventry City fans, upset by the move to Northampton, in 2013. Entering the Midland League Division 3, they won promotion in their first season and followed it up with another promotion from Division 2 into their current league. Undoubtedly a club on an upward spiral, they can boast a Ndlovu in their squad (Brian, younger brother of Peter and the late Adam Ndlovu). Another fact that caught my eye was that Patrick Suffo is currently Assistant Manager and is still registered as a player. The last time I saw Suffo on a pitch was as he left the field at Bramall Lane on the 16th March,2002 (look it up, if you don't know the significance of the date).
Southam have been around much longer. They spent the best part of two decades in the old Midland Combination Premier before being moved to the Midland League Division 1 in 2014. Having finished in 7th spot last season, the Saints will be looking to improve on their early season form this year.
Sphinx Drive, or The Cage as United like to call it, is part of a larger sports and social club complex. There is a decent sized car park which allows you to park quite close to the single turnstile, a big advantage on an evening when the rain is pelting down.
There is a single covered seating and standing area on the far side of the ground from the entrance. Oddly, yet somehow quite pleasingly, this structure does not straddle the halfway line but is, instead, more towards the far end of the ground. All very unsymetrical but that's what gives non-league stadia their appeal in my opinion. Behind the car-park end goal is a small cabin selling snacks and hot drinks and, tonight anyway, a table laden with Coventry United merchandise such as hats, mugs and scarves. What they really could have done with this evening was a batch of Coventry United branded umbrellas.
Onto the game itself and, as I stated in the Six of the Best feature this week, it was very hard to see past a home victory. Coventry boasted the tightest defence in the league and could go top with a win. Southam with only 11 goals in 14 games would appear to have little to worry the home side.
Within 45 seconds of kick-off this entire theory had gone out of the window. A ball played down the left side of the home defence was chased by former Coventry striker Charlie Cook who, with a blistering display of pace, completely outstripped the home defence and slid the ball past the keeper to give Southam a shock early lead.
This, however, turned out to be as good as it got for the Saints. Just 5 minutes later the home side drew level. A terrible mix up in the home defence left Errol Douglas with the relatively simple task of equalising.
Coventry then set about putting plenty of pressure on the shaky looking Southam defence. Debutant keeper Matt Archer pulled off a tremendous save to deny Coventry a second and then, from the resultin corner, followed it up with an even better one handed stop.
It was just a matter of time before Coventry took the lead. The goal duly came on 17 minutes. Just a minute after picking up a mystery yellow card, Muziwandile Nduna finished off a delightful one-touch passing move with a 20 yard drive.
Five minutes later Douglas was allowed to turn on the edge of the box and his, slightly deflected, shot beat Archer and nestled in the corner of the net. Almost before the goal tweets had been sent a rare Southam break saw a cross from the left handled in the box. Penalty to the away aide. Cook, however, could not repeat his first minute heroics and smashed his effort against the bar and over for a goal kick.
In what was turning into a breathless first-half, Coventry were now completely on top. Leading 3-1 and looking as if they could score every time they pushed forward. Some credit has to be given to the Southam team who, for a period of 5-10 minutes, looked as if they might get swamped. However, they re-grouped and held off the waves of red and green attacks.
With a matter of seconds left on the first half clock more drama. The floodlights failed. After a few seconds of indecision, the referee blew up for half-time and the Coventry back-room staff set about getting the lights back on.
What a first half though. A goal after less than a minute, 3 more goals, a missed penalty, countless goal-scoring opportunities and at least two very good saves from the away keeper. There's your entrance fee covered, right there.
Unsurprisingly, the second half could not match the first half for incident. However, more credit to Southam for clearly pulling themselves togetehr during the break. Despite large amounts of neat attacking football from Coventry, the away defence looked far more stable in the second period. Coventry did create openings but, unlike in the first half, there always seemed to be a yellow shirted defender getting in a last minute tackle, or putting some pressure on the attacker. There were still a couple of occasions where the Saints had to thank the man-of-the-match performance of their goalie for keeping the score to 3, but overall they were a much improved team in the seond half.
Coventry, it could be said, were a little guilty of taking their foot off the pedal a little and came close to being caught out at the back a couple of times.
However, in the end, it was a pretty comfortable victory for Coventry and they ended the evening by taking their place back on top of the league. They are a good side with a number of individuals who, in my opinion, could easily make the step up one or two leagues.
Southam, if they continue with the desire and effort they showed in the second half, will be fine as well. They might not match last season's seventh place finish but I thought they displayed enough in the second half to keep them out of trouble.
I left Sphinx Drive with the feeling that Coventry United are a club that is going places. A third consecutive promotion is definitely on the cards. There is a good feel about the place and, who knows, could we see a Godiva Derby in the future?
Coventry United - @covunited
Southam United - @southamunitedfc