Coventry Sphinx claimed their seventh consecutive win by beating Wellingborough Town 4-1
in the Uhlsport United Counties League Premier Division South, starting April as they'd
begun and ended March.
The three-goal difference tells nothing of the story of the match, one in which Sphinx
struggled to convert their usual hard work into quality football for much of the first half. In the
second, three goals in ten minutes blew the visitors away and demonstrated just how
dangerous Shaun Thomas and John Woodward's team have become.
The joint managers named an unchanged eleven after a good win against Godmanchester
Rovers a week earlier. Loz Rawlings returned and took a place on the bench.
Just as they had against Godmanchester, Sphinx made amends against opposition they'd
been defeated 2-1 by in the first half of the season. This return fixture looked to be a nervy
reverse of the first for a while but the home team added a third and a fourth to secure
Sphinx have developed a habit of starting matches well and capitalising on early pressure
with a lead to match. On this occasion, the opener arrived in only the fourth minute of a
game that would later become as changeable as the weather it was played in.
Callum Stewart scored it, nodding into Louie Patching’s empty net after skipper Callum
Woodward had sprung the Wellingborough offside trap with Shipman heading in the opposite
direction, leading to incorrect complaints about offside. Woodward knocked the bouncing ball
to the side, taking Patching out of the equation and leaving Stewart with a simple finish from
Sphinx’s early pressure continued through a promising first quarter of an hour. Callum Martin
skinned the right back in the ninth minute and whipped in a superb cross. Matthew Shipman
met it but couldn’t keep his header under the crossbar to repeat the cross-and-scorer
combination from the previous week.
The home team got in behind Wellingborough again, Shipman the player wrongly claimed to
be offside by the opposition as he raced into the corner. He held the ball up well and moved
in-field, laying the ball off for Woodward. He too fired over with a clever first-time effort.
The middle of the half became scrappy as the snow fell and Sphinx were pushed back
towards their own goal by a quickly improving Wellingborough performance. They were
enjoying a lot of the ball by the time Woodward and Shipman combined in the 26th minute to
create a shot that went just wide of Patching’s post.
The visitors equalised a minute later. Lloyd Buckby made sure their efforts were rewarded
with a well placed right-footed shot past Sphinx goalkeeper Tom Cross and into the bottom
corner from 20 yards out. It was no more than they deserved and they continued to hunt a
second with Sphinx out of sorts.
Thomas and Woodward’s side were fortunate their opponents were unable to generate a
clear-cut chance during their time in the ascendancy. In fact, Sphinx were marginally back on
top when Wellingborough’s next best chance arrived with a minute remaining of the first half.
The defenders were scrambling but the shot across the face of goal evaded them all before
rolling narrowly wide.
Cross had to parry well to repel an ambitious 30-yard strike in stoppage time, crucially
maintaining level pegging as the teams headed in for half time. Sphinx had been unable to
find their groove in the first half. They certainly did in the second.
The hosts were fired up from the first minute of the second half but it wasn’t until later in the
game that their attitude and aggression bore fruit in terms of scoring opportunities.
Wellingborough threatened again first, Cross called into action to smartly field a shot through
a crowd from the edge of the penalty area.
In the 53rd minute, Sphinx found the extra gear that would eventually power them on to a
fine victory. Midfielder Jack Downes, yet to score this season, struck a low shot that Patching
was able to flick wide. Louis Guest met Woodward’s corner but the ball bounced off his back
and over the bar.
As Sphinx stepped it up, Wellingborough were forced to look more direct and Guest, Jamie
Draper and James Bryson snaffled the danger with a towering defensive performance. In the
62nd minute Guest showed his ability at the other end with a vital contribution to the home
team’s second goal.
After a lovely passing move, Sphinx won a corner. Woodward delivered it with trademark
accuracy from the left and Guest stooped to keep the ball moving in the six-yard box. After a
couple of ricochets it dropped to the feet of Downes, who rifled it off the crossbar and over
the line to restore the lead with his much anticipated and robustly celebrated first goal of the
That was the first of three goals in ten minutes to take the game away from the visitors.
Wellingborough came close to an equaliser with another shot that drifted across goal and
just wide but Sphinx were now firing on all cylinders.
They made it 3-1 with twenty minutes left. A long free kick from a deep position dropped
perfectly on to the head of Guest, who headed past Patching as he came off his line in an
attempt to prevent the chance. Stewart made sure by tapping it over the line to notch his
second of the match.
Two minutes later Shipman made goal number four with terrific play in the left channel. He
took on defenders and hit the byline, cutting the ball across the six-yard box to bounce off a
defender and in for an own goal.
There was still time for Draper to put in a sensational tackle at one end and Downes to be
thwarted by Patching at the other, but the last quarter of an hour was comfortable for the
home side, who ran out 4-1 winners after a scorching spell in the second half.
Despite disappointment in the Buildbase FA Vase, Thomas and Woodward’s boys in blue
and white have been phenomenal since losing to Rugby Town in early January. With
promotion never having been on the cards and relegation even more fanciful a notion, lesser
teams have fallen away even as Sphinx have taken flight.
The points are still there to be taken in the final month of the 2021/22 season. The players
and management have shown no inclination to settle for what they have.
Cross, Draper, Martin, J. Downes, Guest, Bryson, Noon (Rawlings), Woodward (Donkor),
Shipman, Stewart, Zia (Billing). Unused subs: J. Kennedy, Gyamera