Coventry Sphinx 2 Stafford Rangers 2
by Derek Brown, www.coventrytelegraph.net
BRAVE Sphinx were most unfortunate not to have caused one of the shocks of the FA Cup as lucky Stafford salvaged a draw.
Danny McSheffrey’s charges were on course for an unexpected victory when Jerome Murdock rifled them in front and though Craig Goodbody was controversially red carded soon after, Calvin Phillips doubled the ten-men’s advantage almost immediately.
But Rangers rallied afterwards, to earn themselves a second bite of the £4,500 cherry at Marston Road tomorrow night.
McSheffrey said: “It’s disappointing to lose a two-goal advantage but we would have been pleased with a draw beforehand although Craig’s dismissal was a blow and obviously forced us on the back foot. But they are not unbeatable and we go into the replay quietly confident.
“I felt the lads did the club proud and were not overawed.”
Rangers started brightly with Nick Wellcomme’s angled drive superbly pushed aside by keeper Carl O’Neill while at the opposite end Josh Ruff’s header grazed the far upright. But on 29 minutes Stafford were stung when the lively Murdock lashed a fierce low 15-yarder inside the near post.
Minutes later Goodbody was harshly sent off for an over-zealous challenge on Ben Mills yet Sphinx, for whom Liam Kay was outstanding in defence, reacted superbly by doubling their advantage within 30 seconds. A long punt forward caused Emmanuel Vogli and keeper Will Lumley to collide, under pressure from Phillips, who chested the loose ball over the line.
The interval brought Stafford alive and on 51 minutes they were gifted a penalty when Wellcomme cut into the box where he was upended by James Holmes and Tom Thorley drilled in the resulting spot kick. And there was more woe just before the hour as the Blue Square North side levelled with home skipper Terry Ward diverting Mills’ right-wing cross into his own net.
And it looked even worse at one stage after the Midland Alliance outfit punished some shoddy Stafford defending to open up a two-goal lead.
"I'm hugely disappointed and, to be honest, we're lucky to still be in it," Brindley, pictured, admitted.
"We were a shambles first half, but were never at the races throughout. That's the worst performance of the season.
"We need to go and play 100 times better now to get through."
The visitors started well enough with Sphinx keeper Carl O'Neil saving well from Ben Mills before Nick Wellecomme put two efforts over the crossbar.
But it was the home side who opened the scoring on 28 minutes when a long clearance from the Sphinx keeper was picked up by danger man Jerome Murdoch and the striker placed his shot past Bill Lumley in the Stafford goal.
There was a second for the home side before half-time when a Richard Vauls clearance cannoned off Sphinx's Kelvin Phillips and into the Rangers net.
The home side were reduced to 10 men moments before their second, Craig Goodbody seeing red for his challenge on Mills.
And with an extra man, Stafford slowly edged their way back into contention.
Tom Thorley struck from the penalty spot on 50 minutes after Wellecomme had been upended and Jamie McAteer diverted a Mills cross into his own net for the equaliser five minutes later.
Injury-time almost saw Stafford snatch an unlikely victory, but Jake Moult failed to find the target, firing over the Sphinx woodwork after latching onto a clearance.