There's always a danger that the weeks after a big cup win can end up a little stale. They
shouldn't, but sometimes they do. Avoiding it is a matter of mindset and attitude, and
Coventry Sphinx have nailed those so far this season.
After defeating London Lions 6-0 to set up a Buildbase FA Vase Fifth Round tie at home
against Whitchurch Alport, Shaun Thomas and John Woodward's side kept their recent
positive run going with a 1-0 win at GNG Oadby Town in the Uhlsport United Counties
League Premier Division South.
Woodward and Thomas were without the Downes brothers so Harvey Billing joined Lewis
Noon and skipper Callum Woodward in the Sphinx midfield. Wing backs Lewis Chester and
Loz Rawlings flanked an unchanged back three of Jamie Draper, Louis Guest and James
Bryson. Tom Cross was in goal, while Harvey Smith and Callum Stewart started at the other
The visitors made a bright start, full of attacking intent and a desire to get the Oadby defence
turned and play in the attacking third from the off.
The early ambition might have paid off in the ninth minute. A quickly taken throw-in caused a
problem and the ball eventually dropped to Noon on the edge of the Oadby box. He
controlled well and got a clean strike away but the goalkeeper wasn't unduly troubled.
The home team stepped up to the plate, though, and forced their way into the game. By the
time Sphinx created a really good opening in the 16th minute, it was arguably against the run
Woodward's free kicks have been a potent source of goals lately and this long delivery from
the halfway line almost generated another. The ball was partially cleared, dropped to Bryson
on the penalty spot, and whizzed agonisingly wide of the post from the defender's shot.
For a spell in the middle of the first half Oadby were playing better in the middle of the pitch,
albeit in harmless areas, and Sphinx were tempted into too direct an approach a little too
They did have some joy as an outcome of the pressure that created. Stewart twice headed
wide, on the stretch in the 22nd minute from Smith’s in-swinging cross from the right, and a
minute later from a beautiful left-footed cross as the captain got a second bite from a blocked
Oadby shifted up a gear and started to win second balls all over the pitch and force attacking
set pieces, gradually increasing the pressure on a Sphinx team whose passing in the first
half was a touch more casual than they demand of themselves.
Yet it was the away team who were making all the chances. Another came and went in the
29th minute, when a free kick bounced back to Woodward and he struck it well on the
half-volley to draw a good save from the Oadby goalkeeper.
The Sphinx captain curled over from another free kick in the minutes that followed, after
which the team's production slowed again as the game got bogged down in midfield.
It also became somewhat frayed and ill-tempered with half time looming. That usually works
against Sphinx but on this occasion the disruption promised to serve as a welcome jolt
ahead of the second half.
But the first few minutes of the second followed the same pattern as spells of the first, with
Sphinx working hard to get a proper grip on proceedings and Oadby looking more
threatening than they actually were.
It was the home side who mounted the first real pressure of the half but they could only
muster a header high and wide in the 51st minute. They soon paid for their inability to
capitalise on that chance.
Just before the hour mark Woodward and Thomas made a tactical switch, swapping
Rawlings to the right and Chester to the left.
It paid off immediately. Rawlings hadn't even reached his new post before a wonderful pass
from Noon sent him into the penalty area. A nifty reverse pass and yet another blocked shot
later, and Smith was rolling the rebound into the bottom corner.
His fifth league goal closely resembled his strike earlier in the season against Rugby Town at
Butlin Road – not the cleanest of strikes but enough to fox the goalkeeper and find his
bottom right corner.
The lead established, Sphinx finally settled. Three minutes after the goal a superb piece of
movement from Woodward positioned him well for a smart Chester cross but his header
sailed just over.
In the 62nd minute, Stewart produced a fabulous run from the right. He took players on and
surged into the box, eventually hitting the byline and cutting the ball back across goal. The
goalkeeper had to react well to prevent an own goal.
Sphinx's fortunes continued to improve all over the pitch. The players were happier, more
confident on the ball and creating opportunities to double their advantage.
With 67 minutes played, a perfect pass from Woodward found Smith in the left channel. The
striker's first touch matched the quality of the pass but his low shot across goal zipped
narrowly wide of the far post.
Just inside the last quarter of an hour, Sphinx brought on a debutant from the bench. Callum
Martin stepped in at left wing back and his first contribution was a scorching run up the wing
that saw him outstrip the Oadby full back and get a two-handed shove off the ball for his
Not awarding a free kick for that obvious foul was one of a series of curious decisions that
littered the second half, which deteriorated further in the final few minutes. Guest was
repeatedly on the end of late aerial challenges from a player quite blatantly uninterested in
the ball. Niggles on the sly became commonplace and Sphinx did well to keep their
discipline and avoid retaliation.
Most seriously, goalkeeper Cross was kicked off the ball in the last minute and mysteriously
found himself on the floor under the gaze of the unmoved referee from a stoppage time
The contest itself was played out by that point. The two sides had exchanged speculative
attempts as the clock ticked down but neither goalkeeper had much meaningful work to do
after the game's only goal.
It might not have been a spectacle for the ages but Sphinx edged a competitive fixture and
had the requisite quality and a little slice of luck when it counted. They earned that luck by
standing up to a stern test of their guts and their discipline, securing a third consecutive
clean sheet in the process.
Thanks to this win in Leicester they embark on a challenging run in good form. Before the
next round of the FA Vase they visit Long Buckby AFC and host Hinckley LRFC, each the
reverse of a fixture lost early in the season.
The next few weeks will define the season. If winning is a habit, now would be a good time to
Cross, Draper, Rawlings, Billing, Guest, Bryson, Chester (Martin), Woodward, H. Smith
(Hallett), Stewart (Stone), Noon. Unused subs: Taylor, J. Smith