Match Report 05.03.22  Potton 2-3 Sphinx

Match Report 05.03.22 Potton 2-3 Sphinx

By Sharon Taylor
5 March
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By Chris Nee


There's a widely held notion in football that a team that wins when it’s not at its best is likely
to prove a very good team. It's true, to an extent, but it isn't always accurately applied.
Regardless, there's something so satisfying about those matches. On the back of a
thumping midweek win, Coventry Sphinx had to work hard in their third match in eight days.
They were rewarded with a 3-2 away win at Potton United and sixth place in the league
table.
Sphinx have now played Potton twice in the Uhlsport United Counties League Premier
Division South this season and taken all six points from two tight games against a very
capable side who gave them plenty to think about in the second half in Bedfordshire.
Shaun Thomas and John Woodward were without a handful of players through a
combination of injury, illness and unavailability but took a strong starting eleven and a tight
bench to the Hutchinson Hollow. Danny Fraser was named among the substitutes as he
works towards a return from injury.
Lewis Noon shifted from the centre of midfield to right wing back and captain Callum
Woodward came back into the midfield alongside Harvey Billing and Luke Downes.
Goalkeeper Tom Cross was protected by Jamie Draper, Louis Guest and James Bryson,
with Callum Martin continuing at left wing back and Matthew Shipman partnering Callum
Stewart up front.
The visitors made a bright start in wet and bitter conditions, and would go on to dominate the
opening quarter of the match. The scene was set for a valuable away victory by Stewart’s
25th goal of the season, scored in the fifth minute.
Noon made the chance, nicking the ball at the base of midfield and just guiding a through
pass in behind the Potton defence. Stewart’s superb first touch took him away from the
defenders and into open space. But with goalkeeper Sam Irish perhaps anticipating a pass
across goal, the forward whipped his shot inside the far post from an unfavourable angle.
Sphinx briefly looked back to their best as the match shaped up to be a solid team effort,
with passes finding feet all over the pitch and the attacking patterns working out exactly as
planned.
The confident performance was soon rewarded with a second goal. In the 17th minute, Noon
collected the ball from a Sphinx throw-in, stepped in on his left foot and arced a beautiful
cross towards the six-yard box. Shipman got up well and headed the ball back across Irish
and into the corner to claim his fourth goal in as many appearances for his new club.
From the middle of the half, Potton played their way back into the match. Their quick passing
was also finding its mark and Sphinx were tasked with a lot more defending than the first
twenty minutes suggested they might.
With 32 minutes played, the home team halved the difference with the goal their resurgence
deserved. The visitors were under pressure and an initial good save from Cross almost did
enough, but James Smith was left with the easiest of finishes from close range to make it
2-1.
The crucial goal arrived just three minutes later. Sphinx were awarded a free kick on the left
wing and Billing’s mishit delivery took a fortuitous flick off a defender on its way into touch on
the right. Bryson, thinking quickly, raced across to take a throw-in, received the ball back
from Noon and lofted a cross into the centre.
Potton weren’t set and Guest was barely marked as he met the ball and headed it
goalwards. It just crossed the line and the goal was given before Stewart had a chance to
make sure of Sphinx’s 3-1 lead and restored two-goal advantage.
The home team, though, were far from beaten. They had Sphinx up against it despite the
third goal and were able to cut the deficit again with a second goal of their own before half
time.
After being fed with a pass into the box, George Brinkman produced an excellent turn under
pressure and finished tidily past Cross to make it 3-2. Game on, again, and it was the away
side who were most relieved when the whistle blew to bring a frantic first half to a close with
their noses still, just, in front.
Nevertheless, the second half picked up exactly where the first had ended. Potton were in
good shape and trying to force the issue, Sphinx leaning heavily on their work ethic and
team defending to keep them out.
Potton were on top by the time a blocked shot flew over in the 54th minute but, in truth, it
was one of only a few genuine opportunities they were able to carve out even with plenty of
the ball in the second half.
Cross had to show off some confident and effective handling on his goal line just before the
hour – not for the first time in this match, or the last – and the home team continued to move
the ball around well and test Sphinx’s defensive capabilities.
It looked as if the game had another significant moment with 65 minutes played, when the
referee blew his whistle to signal a foul in the Sphinx box and pointed to the penalty spot.
Thankfully for Woodward, Thomas and the visiting players, the assistant referee had already
raised his flag to signal for an offside as Potton tried to convert a rebound from just a yard or
two out. The referee conferred with his assistant and the outcome was a warmly received
indirect free kick for Sphinx.
It was a let-off and there was yet more hard work ahead. Potton had enjoyed lots of
possession since the middle of the first half and Sphinx’s counter-attacking became ever more infrequent as the second half wore on. The hosts, though, were struggling for the big
chance they needed to restore parity.
In the 79th minute, Sphinx had their best attack of the period. Substitute Jack Kennedy
turned on the afterburners and roared up the right wing, single-handedly turning defence into
attack at an important juncture. He found Stewart in a promising position but Irish was equal
to his low shot on goal.
At the other end, Potton kept Cross honest. He had to get across his near post to turn away
a powerful shot from just outside the box with five minutes of the ninety remaining, and a
couple more big catches when they were needed the most helped take his team into injury
time with their lead intact.
By then, Potton’s race was run. Although they had a few additional minutes to keep plugging
away, stoppage time was instead Sphinx’s best little spell of the second half. They kept the
ball, worked the channels well to keep it a safe distance from their own goal and stayed calm
as the clock eventually ticked over to full time.
After a month in which leads were lost and late goals conceded became all too familiar,
Sphinx started March with a 5-0 win at home. But seeing out a much tighter game and
holding on to a narrow margin – albeit without too many meaningful chances for the
opposition, in hindsight – should be just as big a confidence boost.
These three points finally moved Sphinx up the Premier Division South table. After several
months in eighth place, they were able to jump into the top six by winning two games in hand
in the space of a few days. They’re certainly capable of staying there but it won’t be easy.

Teamsheet
Cross, Draper, Martin, Billing, Guest, Bryson, Noon, Woodward, Shipman, Stewart, L.
Downes (J. Kennedy). Unused subs: Donkor, Fraser, Selley-Haywood

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