Coventry Sphinx followed an award-winning October with a thumping away victory in the first
match of November, winning 4-0 in Northamptonshire to claim their fifth success on the road
in the 2022/23 season.
Their form in the Uhlsport United Counties League Premier Division South earned them
Team of the Month recognition but a disappointing League Cup exit meant the visit to
Bugbrooke St Michaels, a team with much to shout about themselves, was as much about
bouncing back as carrying on.
Joint managers John Woodward and Shaun Thomas shuffled the pack on the pitch and the
bench with a pair of cup matches to come in the following week, and with Danny Fraser and
Lewis Noon having headed for pastures new since the visit of Sleaford Town.
Leo Stone and Max Johnson started alongside captain Callum Woodward in midfield, but
Sphinx started with a familiar front two of Matty Shipman and Cally Stewart. Scott Martin
continued in goal behind Jamie Draper, Louis Guest and James Bryson, while Callum
Whiteside and Jordan Hayward played at wing back.
The pitch was ideal for passing football and the home team proved as eager to use the ball
as the visitors, but despite an even start the opening goal arrived as early as the seventh
minute. Sphinx had a throw-in on the left and it was flicked on by Shipman for Stewart, who
held the ball up for long enough for Hayward to pinch it off his toes and race up the wing.
Hayward’s low delivery squirmed its way to Shipman despite a blocking challenge from a
Bugbrooke defender, and Shipman kept his composure to create half a yard of space and
drill the shot low past goalkeeper Luke Reeve.
The goal spurred Sphinx into life and they settled beautifully, constantly going after
Bugbrooke and making life very difficult indeed for their hosts. Bugbrooke briefly appeared
willing to get into a physical battle – that’s no more likely to beat Sphinx than it is to inspire
In the 14th minute Stewart passed the ball out to the right for wing back Whiteside, who was
in a decent position but had to stretch to get his shot away. As a result, he wasn’t able to
keep it under the crossbar.
Stewart went closer in the 21st minute, his low effort from 20 yards beating Reeve but hitting
the post. Just a couple of minutes later Sphinx’s top goalscorer had another try, this time
producing a fabulous dribble in the box but rolling his shot just wide of the upright.
Bugbrooke were by no means a soft touch. As they came into the match they were awarded
a free kick that went over, but they were increasingly getting a foot on the ball and making
sure Sphinx had something to think about. They ended the half by applying some pressure
and firing a shot into the side netting from a tight angle.
Sphinx’s play out of possession was excellent and kept Bugbrooke at bay, but not without a
few more direct interventions from Bryson, Guest and Draper.
The away team also kept their attacking rhythm going and a good move on the left in the
34th minute led to another presentable chance. Stewart reversed a cute pass for Woodward,
who clipped a cross in for Shipman. Like Whiteside before him, the striker was reaching for
it. His header sailed wide.
Sphinx quickly gained control of the game after the half time break and were well on top by
the time they doubled their lead, but there was a degree of good fortune about the second
goal. With Sphinx pinning Bugbrooke back inside their own box, Woodward clipped it over
the defence for Stewart.
His contact was unorthodox but enough to take it beyond Reeve. It rolled almost in
slow-motion into the far bottom corner; the defender chasing it was unable to catch up
despite the penalty area being kept pristine.
With a goal already to his name, Shipman was instrumental in Sphinx’s third when it arrived
right in the middle of the second half.
Some masterful footwork took him into the Bugbrooke penalty area and when the ball finally
got away from him he was able to prod it in the direction of Whiteside, overlapping into the
right slot. After scoring a week earlier, he fired low past Reeve to bring an end to the home
team’s hopes of a comeback.
The result was all but assured at 3-0 and there was a chance for Woodward and Thomas to
make their last two changes, one of which meant a debut for new signing Dylan Parker. His
impact in the last quarter of the game gave the travelling Sphinx supporters plenty to get
By the last quarter of an hour the visitors were dominant. They put together some really
good attacking play and carved out a few half chances while keeping Bugbrooke to minimal
possession. In the 79th minute, Parker went hunting after Bryson’s speculative clip in behind
and his pace got him there ahead of goalkeeper Reeve. His lob dropped wide.
A minute later, Parker was through again. Stewart had the ball at his feet and rolled it for his
new team-mate, who made himself a shooting opportunity and drove one with his left foot
that Reeve was forced to tip over.
Sphinx’s last two substitutes made the fourth goal in the final minute of the match. Loz
Rawlings turned in midfield and played Parker in on the right, and his low pass all the way
across the box caught Bugbrooke’s defenders with their eyes off the ball.
Shipman stole in at the far post, kept his footing, tapped in his second goal, then stacked it
with the help of the netting behind the goal.
After playing a large part in the fourth goal, Rawlings tried to add a fifth in the first minute of
stoppage time. At the end of a powerful run he just dragged his shot slightly and Reeve was
able to watch it wide. The damage had long since been done by the boys in yellow and blue.
November will be an important month for Thomas and Woodward. In the seven days after
this win at Bugbrooke, Sphinx will play in the Birmingham Senior Cup and the Isuzu FA
Vase, away against Romulus and Eccleshall respectively.
Of course, the plan will be to try and remain in both competitions. But there’s also a league
battle to fight, and while setting expectations in advance would be folly it’s safe to say that
this is an ambitious club that intends to grasp any opportunity that comes its way. This
month, that means staying as high up the league table as possible.
Beating a decent Bugbrooke side was a great start but there are challenges on the horizon
in the form of Milton Keynes Irish and Cogenhoe United. As the nights draw in, the football
season really gets started. Let’s see what we’ve got.
S. Martin, Draper, Hayward (C. Martin), Johnson (J. Downes), Guest, Bryson, Whiteside
(Rawlings), Woodward (Parker), Shipman, Stewart, Stone (L. Downes).