The perfect response to the midweek away defeat was a performance of determination and that’s exactly what we got. Shawbury gave Sphinx a tough game but it was a good result for Sphinx against a side who were on a great run of form. Manager Stuart Dutton welcomed back three key players with Lower, McAteer and Towers all back in the side after missing the previous game at Loughborough University. Nathan McGarrity was also available and he went straight into the side up front. The return of these players also allowed the likes of Aron Wint and Reece Blackmore to return to more familiar positions and the result was a strong looking Sphinx side for the match against their Shropshire visitors.
Shawbury started the game quickly and immediately set about trying to exert pressure on the Sphinx goal. Sphinx resisted and then the energy of Woodward created their first threat on the Shawbury goal with the defender doing very well to head back to his keeper while under pressure to deal with Woodward’s cross. Woodward was the man who provided the assist for the opening goal on 9 minutes as Sphinx grabbed an early lead. Wint was fouled out on the left and Woodward’s low free kick was brilliantly steered in by BLACKMORE at the near post. An excellent goal and just the start Sphinx were hoping for. Two more Woodward free kicks caused chaos in the Shawbury box and McGarrity also had an effort just wide of the post as they looked to extend their advantage but Shawbury emerged from this to get onto the front foot themselves. The Shawbury striker Nathan Hodge was proving to be particularly troublesome and that was no surprise with his impressive goal record this season. He soon had the chance to increase his seasons tally when Sphinx were penalised for a foul in the box. Hodge sent Dutton the wrong way from the spot kick and they were now level after 25 minutes at Sphinx Drive. There were some tough tackles going in but it was a even looking game now. The next opportunity came from some sloppy play in the Sphinx midfield and Shawbury powered forward into the Sphinx box. Only a sliding intervention from Eggleton prevented Shawbury taking the lead from that break but Sphinx replied with a quick attack of their own. Downes produced a lovely diagonal to the feet of right back Lower who continued forward to cut back an inviting cross to McGarrity. Although McGarrity struck the ball well he was denied by the Shawbury defence who blocked and cleared his attempt on goal. Shawbury continued to work Sphinx hard when they were in possession but it was Sphinx who grabbed the lead on the stroke of half time. It was the turn of Sphinx to score from a penalty this time after McGarrity was brought down in the box and WOODWARD stepped up to dispatch the spot kick into the bottom corner. There was still time for McGarrity to get on the end of a Towers cross but again Shawbury snuffed out the shot with some determined defending. Sphinx ended the half in front but Shawbury were by no means out of this contest and there would be a lot of work to do in the second half to secure the points.
HALF TIME: COVENTRY SPHINX 2 SHAWBURY UTD 1
It didn’t take Sphinx long to extend their lead with some fine wing play from Towers leading to Callum Woodward bagging his second goal of the game. Towers had been released down the right wing and his swinging deep cross was met at the back post by the head of Wint. His header looped back across the six yard box and midfielder WOODWARD headed home from close range on 52 minutes. 3-1 to Sphinx early in the second half but Shawbury were not about to lie down and accept defeat. With the benefit of a two goal advantage Sphinx were playing some good football at times but it was their work rate and desire to win that was standing out. The Towers and Wint combination threatened again just after the hour but Wint couldn’t quite get enough contact on his header this time. Soon after, Sphinx cut through the visitors defence but Towers goal was ruled out for offside with Sphinx showing no signs of wanting to sit on their lead. That would have been a dangerous game to play with Shawbury still looking intent on finding a way back into it. Twenty minutes to go and the first Sphinx substitutions were made with Wint and McGarrity making way for the fresh legs of Cairns and Harkin. Wint had played well on the left and McGarrity had got through an immense amount of work up front. Despite running out of time, Shawbury continued to deliver the ball into the box at every opportunity and Sphinx had to stay strong defensively to keep them out. One goal back could have led to a nervous finish but Sphinx had done more than enough to claim the three points. A big win for Sphinx after the defeat in midweek, particularly against a Shawbury side who had thrashed title challengers Westfields in their last match.
MAN OF THE MATCH: CALLUM WOODWARD
Keeper Scott Dutton was struggling with illness and although he had few saves to make he caught the ball well and only conceded from the penalty spot. The defence played a part in that and Jamie McAteer was dominant in the air. The midfield are combining really well lately with Downes, Blackmore and Woodward complimenting each others games nicely. Towers was a threat down the right and Wint had one of his better games for Sphinx down the left. McGarrity was a constant pest up front and was unfortunate not to get on the score sheet but my Man of the Match goes to Callum Woodward who scored twice and provided the assist for the other Sphinx goal.
COVENTRY SPHINX TEAM: DUTTON, LOWER, McCALLA, DOWNES, McATEER, EGGLETON, TOWERS, WOODWARD, McGARRITY (Harkin 69 mins), BLACKMORE (Downie 82 mins), WINT (Cairns 69 mins)