Sporting Khalsa 4-3 Coventry Sphinx

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FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round

Sporting Khalsa, newly promoted to step 4 after a couple of years dominating the Midland Football League with Long Eaton United, welcomed Coventry Sphinx to the Garden Warehousing Arena, Willenhall, themselves a Step 5 outfit. The United Counties Premier Division South side began their league campaign midweek, narrowly losing 3-2 against Leciester Road, who had raced into a three goal lead within half an hour whereas for Khalsa, this game represented their first competitive outing of the campaign.

With that in mind, then, it was probably expected that Sphinx would start the sharper of the two sides, with Louis Guest scuffing the game’s first chance wide from a corner. Following a good ten minutes of inquests among the home players, Khalsa would grow into the game; Sean Williams seeing a shot blocked in what was their first real sighter at Tom Cross’ goal. Ian Rowe’s Khalsa side were indebted to goalkeeper Sam Arnold after excellent play between Callum Woodward and Mo Billy, with the latter firing a stinging effort which Arnold did well to parry after a one-two had played him in. Sphinx had been the better side, and their failure to turn that superiority into goals would come back to bite them. First, the warning shot across the boughs, as Mason Birch’s teasing cross found fellow full back Lewis Worsey at the back post; his goalbound effort heroically blocked for a corner which, like the three before them in the half, came to nothing. It was ironic, then, that when Khalsa did take the lead, it would come from a corner. A wicked delivery was swung into the centre where Josh McKenzie would rise highest and plant a header into the bottom corner.

The second half started with Khalsa the better side, but it would be Sphinx who would grab the game’s second goal. Lax defending allowed James Bryson to turn home a wicked cross from the left hand side, after finding himself between the two home centre halves. Two goals in six minutes soon after looked to have killed any hopes of a Sphinx upset, with impressive winger James McGrady’s low cross turned home by McKenzie for his second of the game before the coup de grace from former Football League midfielder Jake Gosling. McKenzie had been a threat all game, and with the ball hung up towards him, he nodded it down into the path of Gosling who hit a sweetly struck half volley from twenty yards out that arrowed into the top left corner, giving Cross absolutely no chance. Surely, it should be featured in the “Goals of the Round” compilations that are usually run by the FA.

Buoyed by this moment of quality, and the confidence of a two goal lead, Khalsa smelt blood and were unfortunate not to have grabbed a fourth as McGrady fired over after a lovely passing move reminiscent of their Step 5 days where they would sweep aside the opposition. Perhaps the winger was in a mood more generous than selfish today, as he laid on a second goal, again for McKenzie, as Khalsa made it 4-1. Again, it was a drilled cross into the striker who touched it through Cross’ legs. It didn’t have the requisite power to cross the line, and sensing his hat-trick was literally a couple of yards away, outmuscled the Sphinx goalkeeper to tap home, much to the goalkeeper’s consternation as he felt he had been fouled. With the game apparently done as a contest, with just ten minutes to play, you could have been forgiven for thinking the goals were finished for the day. Alas, this is the FA Cup. As the clock ticked into the 90th minute, sub Ryan Harkin lashed home a sweet strike of his own to make it 4-2 before Callum Stewart was bundled over deep into injury time; Callum Woodward dispatching the penalty into the top left hand corner. There was no time for home nerves to jangle though, as this pulsating contest was brought to an end moments later. Khalsa will now host Market Drayton Town, themselves a Step 4 team, in the Preliminary Round of this famous competition.

Sporting Khalsa: Arnold; Birch, Robinson, Woodhouse, Worsey; Whittaker, Perks, Jones, McGrady; McKenzie, Williams. Subs: Pryce, Armstrong, Ferrier, Gosling, Cameron, Mason, Okojie.

Coventry Sphinx: Cross; Draper, Guest, Bryson, Fraser; Rawlings, Downes, Noon, Serambinho; Billy, Woodward. Subs: Holloway, Harkin, H.Wilson, Kavanagh, Stewart, K.Wilson.

Referee: Mr N.Felton

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