Two goals in the first twenty minutes gave the Cooks an up hill task against title favorites Coventry Sphinx, but a much improved second half meant the home side had to dig deep to ensure they overtook Rugby Town at the top on Tuesday night.
Tuesday 27th March 2023
UHLSPORT UNITED COUNTIES LEAGUE – PREMIER DIVISION SOUTH
COVENTRY SPHINX (2) 2 COGENHOE UNITED (0) 0
The Cooks made the trip to the Sphinx Industrial Supplies Stadium to face a Coventry Sphinx team looking to pick up the three points from their game in hand to move above Rugby Town and claim top-spot as we head into the final few games of the season. Scott Carlin had to make a couple of changes from Saturday with Tommy Curry (injury) and Dalton Leon unavailable, so he gave starts to Josh Adams and Pharrell Anderson, while Callum Farmer and Keiron Mobbs were included on the bench. Sphinx joint-managers John Woodward and Shaun Thomas brought in Jack Downes, Callum Martin and Dylan Parker in place of James Bryson, Jordan Hayward and Loz Rawlings who had all started in their previous game against Histon on Saturday. The biggest problem we were to face tonight though would be the fact that we turned up in our grey change kit and with the home side wearing their usual pale sky blue and white kit, it was going to be very difficult to tell the teams apart on the pitch in a floodlit game. Our royal blue kit would have been perfect with no colour clash.
The Cooks will have been hoping to play on the nerves of Sphinx tonight as the pressure was firmly on the shoulders of the championship hopefuls, but the tension was relieved as early as the 2nd minute when Kyle Carey broke down the left flank and laid the ball into the run of Dylan Parker on the edge of the box and he placed a first-time shot into the right corner of Ash Bodycote’s net for the perfect start for our hosts. Parker loves to score against the Cooks and it didn’t take him long to keep that up tonight. It wasn’t far off being two shortly after the opening goal when Matty Shipman rose in the centre to meet a corner form the left with a firm header that hit the top of the crossbar and went over for a goal-kick, then Bodycote got down well to save Luke Downes effort from deep inside the box on the left. Bodycote was again called into action with a great save to deny Callum Woodward who hit a 25-yard free-kick nicely, going over the wall and dipping it towards the keeper’s left-hand corner.
There was nothing that Bodycote could do as Sphinx doubled their lead on 17 minutes as the two centre-halves combined at the opposite end of the pitch to their bread and butter duties. Louis Guest headed a deep corner back into the centre of the box and Callum Whiteside planted an unstoppable header into the back of the net. There were concerns coming to mind for the Cooks at this point that we could end up on the wrong end of a real hiding tonight after that goal and it looked like Matty Shipman might be about to go clean through as the chased a big clearance, but Bruce Tsinosis stretched out a leg at the vital moment to nick the ball away from him just outside the box. Louis Barrett whipped in a cross from the right that dropped just over the bar, the Cooks wanted a corner, but the touch of the keeper’s glove had come when he put his hand through the net which the assistant referee was in a good position to see. A fact that Jack Downes took great delight from pointing out too Biff in a mini-rant that including calling the Cooks gaffer a doughnut. He has been called a lot worse over the years and it raised a chuckle from the Cooks contingent and we hadn’t had a lot to smile about thus far on the night.
A nice ball from Callum Stewart to Parker inside the box on the right saw ball crossed into the centre, but Paddy Cichosz managed to get his boot to the ball and it looped up into Bodycote’s hands. On 35 minutes Biff was forced to make an early sub for a very unusual reason. The kit clash proved to much for Alex Parkes who suffers from colour-blindness and despite trying his best, was unable to distinguish between the two strips on the field and had to come off. He was already the stand-in right back covering for Bruce who was himself covering for Perry Ronayne in the centre of the defence, so Barrett became the latest player to take over the role with sub Josh Jones coming into the midfield. The game had now become rather scrappy and two yellow cards in stoppage time were the only things worthy of finding their way into my notebook in the final minutes of the half. Skipper Cichosz was first as he turned his back as he jumped into Luke Downes and caught the Sphinx man in the back with no attempt to play the ball, then Carey joined him for kicking the ball away.
A stoic second half of the first half had stopped the flow of the home side after those two early goals, but Sphinx certainly deserved their lead as we headed in to the break.
Half-time; Sphinx 2 Cooks 0
Carlin made one change at the break with Jamie Hall coming on up front in a reshuffle that saw Adams come off as the Cooks looked to avoid a repeat of last season’s 5-0 thrashing at Sphinx Drive. The Cooks started the half well and a good cross from Anderson found Hall on the edge of the 6-yard box in the middle, but the ball wouldn’t drop for him and the home defence managed to get the ball away. Sphinx picked up another booking for a foul on 48 minutes, I think Woodward was the recipient, but I’m not certain as it was a long way away from where I stood at the time. Obeng sent over a good cross that Callum Martin was forced to head over his own crossbar, then Obeng sent over the ensuing corner with Jack Downes getting his head to it first. Sphinx got a couple of crosses into the Cooks box, but these were dealt with comfortably by the Cooks defence, but it was the Cooks who were having more of the attacking play now and Jones dinked a ball over the top that Barrett ran on to, taking the ball to the bye-line before firing in a low cross that Martin got down to smother at the near post. A decent ball into the box from Obeng was cut out by Whiteside, but the Cooks were very nearly caught out when a good cross from the right was headed against the bar by Guest.
Sphinx made their first change just after the hour as Parker made way for Leo Stone, but it was the Cooks who continued to press. A decent free-kick from Jones saw Purse just unable to reach it at the far post as the Sphinx defence held their ground well and we almost pulled a goal back when more good play from Jones saw him find Obeng on the left corner of the 6-yard box and despite slipping, he managed to beat keeper Martin with his shot, but left-back Martin had come in at the back post and cleared the ball off the line. Hall was back in his own box to get his head to a set-piece and when the ball fell to Stone outside the box, he sliced his first-time shot well wide of the target. Cogenhoe were getting the ball into the home box quite a lot now and the defence really struggled to clear their lines on a couple occasions, but the Cooks couldn’t make it count, failing to actually create a chance from the panicking at the back. Carey, who recently joined from their enemies across the city whose name isn’t allowed on their Twitter account, came off after 75 with Loz Rawlings taking his place. Cichosz can consider himself lucky not to have been showed a second yellow card after pulling back his man, instead referee Tom Taylor gave him his final warning before we went into a flurry of subs over the next 8 minutes. Carlin brought on Harry Waple-Moors for Cichosz and then lost Kodi Briggs to injury with Mobbs taking on his left-back role, probably the first time he has found himself playing in that position as we played out the last ten minutes with no recognised full-backs. The Coventry team took off Stewart and Woodward during this period with Max Johnson and Joe Pursey coming on. Pursey had played against the Cooks recently for Long Buckby when we beat them 8-2 at Station Road, so he has literally gone from bottom to top in the space of a couple of weeks.
Purse started a move that saw Waple-Moors play Barrett down the wing and he sent a dangerous ball right across the face of goal, but our already very slim chances of getting anything out of this game became even slimmer on 89 minutes when we reduced to ten-men following the red card shown to Waple-Moors. I’m not sure what was going through the mind of the young Cooks sub as he appeared to launch himself almost head first into a defender by the corner flag and the referee was quick to dig out his red card. Tsinosis fired well over from 25-yards out, while Bodycote made a good save to deny Johnson from the edge of the box. Purse got his head to a corner and when it was returned into the centre, Shipman met it with a powerful header that Bodycote kept out with a fantastic reflex save. Bodycote raced off his line to beat Shipman to a through ball, injuring the striker in the process and he limped off to be replaced by Jack Kennedy with the game already deep into stoppage time. A late booking, I think for Pursey, rounded off the evening and Sphinx will be pleased to have picked up all three points that they had needed to go to the top of the table.
I think over all we should be pleased with this result as after conceding those two early goals it had looked like we might end up on the negative side of a big scoreline, but we were vastly improved in the second half and had the larger share of the attacking play. Well done to Sphinx, deserved the win over the whole ninety-minutes and hit the bar twice, whilst being frustrated by Ash Bodycote on a few occasions as well. Bodycote gets my man-of-the-match today, but Josh Jones pushed him close after coming on as a sub in the first half.
It is going to be an interesting end to the season to see if Sphinx can keep their noses in front of Rugby Town. They both have similar run-ins on paper, but the Easter Monday derby at United could prove to be a pivotal point of the closing stages of the season. As for the Cooks, we need a good finish to make 11th spot our own, but we must overcome Desborough at home first on Saturday, which will be anything but easy as they are the form team in the division going into the game.
Sphinx; 1. Scott Martin 2. Jack Downes 3. Callum Martin 4. Luke Downes 5. Louis Guest 16. Callum Whiteside 7. Dylan Parker (sub 14. Leo Stone 61) 8. Callum Woodward © (sub 6. Joe Pursey 85) 9. Matty Shipman (sub 17. Jack Kennedy 90+5) 10. Callum Stewart (sub 12. Max Johnson 82) 11. Kyle Carey (sub 15. Loz Rawlings 76).
Yellow cards; Carey (45+3) Kicking the ball away. Woodward? (48) Foul. Pursey? (90+4) Foul.
Cooks; 1. Ash Bodycote 2. Josh Adams (sub 20. Jamie Hall HT) 3. Kodi Briggs (sub 16. Keiron Mobbs 81) 4. Alex Parkes (sub 17. Josh Jones 35) 5. Luca Purse 6. Bruce Tsinosis 7. Louie Barrett 8. Paddy Cichosz © (sub 15. Harry Waple-Moors 78) 9. Pharrell Anderson 10. Ethan Lack 11. Jessi Obeng. Sub unused; 14. Callum Farmer.
Red card; Waple-Moors (89) Foul.
Yellow card; Cichosz (45+1) Foul.
Referee; Thomas Taylor
Assts; Edward Stone & Robert Pettipher