2-1 wins are becoming familiar outcomes for Coventry Sphinx but these games are anything
but predictable. Sometimes they ebb and flow, other times the scoreline flatters the losing
side, and other times still the winners come from behind to snatch all three points from out of
Sphinx have had all of them in the Uhlsport United Counties League Premier Division South
this season, and their away win at Bugbrooke St Michaels – the first team they’ve beaten
home and away in 2021/22 – was an extreme example of the latter.
The visitors rarely looked like going on to win after conceding the first goal of the game but
they forced the issue for 90 minutes and more and reaped the rewards for a determined, if
disjointed, display in Northamptonshire.
In the absence of striker Harvey Smith, Jamal Adams continued up front with Callum Stewart
joining him after a stint in midfield on the previous Saturday. Jack Downes returned to
midfield and put in a tremendous shift that showed why he was missed against Rugby Town
and Potton United.
Adams and Sphinx captain Callum Woodward each gave the Bugbrooke goalkeeper a
comfortable touch of the ball in the first few minutes, before a volley from a corner went over
at the other end with four minutes played.
It wasn’t the most dynamic first half. Sphinx laboured and struggled to find their rhythm, yet
they looked more potent than their opponents in the attacking third. Bugbrooke played better
football in the middle of the park but were unable to translate it into sustained pressure.
In the 29th minute Sphinx saw one of many corners cleared but kept the attack alive, which
resulted in Danny Fraser being teed up on the edge of the box. His shot was deflected over
for another corner, from which Louis Guest’s header was well saved.
Eight minutes later a Woodward free kick flicked off the Bugbrooke wall for yet another
corner. Jamie Draper got to the delivery first and sought to cap a fine defensive performance
with a goal, but could only head over the crossbar.
Two minutes before half time, Bugbrooke took the lead as Sphinx conceded from a free kick
just as they had against Potton. The ball was played in high from a deep position and
cleared, but Edward Panter volleyed it back towards goal and it bounced into the far corner
to make it 1-0.
Although the hosts had created limited chances and Sphinx had generated a few, you’d have
been hard pressed to argue that the visitors deserved anything more than the deficit they
had at half time.
It looked likely to be one of those nights when a similar opportunity came Sphinx’s way from
their own free kick in the first minute of the second half. Harry Holloway was the man waiting
outside the penalty area but his volley crept wide of the corner Panter found before the
A few minutes later Sphinx were finally able to mount some pressure, which culminated in a
lovely turn in the box by Stewart. His shot was heavily deflected up and over the crossbar by
From the resulting corner a home defender headed the ball high towards his own goal and
the goalkeeper made a vital catch right on the line, just inside his post.
Sphinx pushed on but the game was becoming increasingly scrappy. Goalkeeper Tom Cross
had to get down well to save a header at his near post as Bugbrooke hunted what would
certainly have been a crucial second goal, but by now chances at either end were few and
Adams pulled the ball down in the Bugbrooke box in the 64th minute and became the latest
player to have a shot blocked by the home defenders but the scarcity of dangerous attacks
and the baffling amount of time taken to send Guest to the sin bin suggested it was unlikely
to be Sphinx’s night.
But in the 88th minute, they finally had a clear-cut chance and substitute Ryan Harkin put it
away ruthlessly. Cross came forward to launch a long free kick into the box, where James
Bryson was competing but just lost out in the aerial challenge. Downes was poised outside
the area and hooked it back in towards the far post.
There, Harkin cracked a sumptuous measured volley across the goalkeeper and into the far
corner after peeling away and escaping the attentions of the defence. Having reviewed a
video from the other end of the pitch, and with the goal posts and half of the players out of
shot when the ball was played, one observer deemed the lack of an offside flag
In the third minute of added time the officials upset the home side again by awarding a
penalty for a handball in the area, an offence forced by some fantastic footwork from the
Woodward took the responsibility and drove the spot kick beyond the grasp of the
goalkeeper to make it 2-1. It was the second consecutive match won by a Woodward penalty
and results elsewhere helped lift Sphinx into fifth place.
If you waste time when you’re in front, you don’t get it back when you go behind in stoppage
time. This Sphinx team hasn’t lost by more than a single goal this season to anyone except
Aston Villa; they’re almost always in the game.
On this occasion, they got the goals their guts deserved and left no time for Bugbrooke to
It’s frustrating to lose that way. It hurts. It’s hard to take. Seeing the opposition celebrating a
stoppage time winner stings. Emotions are bound to take over in the heat of the moment but
it’s important to maintain some class in official club communications when all is said and
done. Anything else would be an embarrassment.
Cross, Draper, Fraser, Downes, Guest, Bryson, Kavanagh (Willis), Holloway (Harkin),
Adams, Woodward, Stewart (MJ). Unused sub: Stone