Oxford United Women’s face their final away day of the season against Millwall Lionesses this Saturday, 22nd April, completing a unique double, with the men also away at Millwall for their own final away game the same day.
Having shown strong, gutsy performances in their previous two matches – both away, to Durham and Sheffield – the women's side will be looking to finally gain some points as their reward but will be without the joint top scorer in the league, Ini Umotong, for the weekend's match after she was sent off against Sheffield. Despite this, manager Andy Cook remains upbeat about the talent at his disposal in order to cover for the loss of the striker.
“If players attributes allow them to play in-between the midfield and defence then we will look at the possibility of them playing up front. We’re fortunate that we have a couple of great players we can play in that forward position. For example, Taome Oliver and Emily Donovan come to mind. Equally someone that may not have played there before might have the technical ability to succeed in this type of role.”
Andy is pleased with how Oxford’s attacking play is progressing but stresses that the coaching staff want to see more from them. “The attack is beginning to click, but we need more from them. They need to play the game intelligently – as the ball travels they should be looking to receive the ball. We pass the ball to move the opposition, we make a run to effect this. If it doesn't come off it doesn't matter, the phase of play may work.”
Having conceded the joint highest amount of goals, the defence is still an area of concern for United, but the Manager has seen moments of promise. “Defensive stability comes being disciplined in the positioning, as to not allow the opposition a chance to play through, over, or round. When this is done right it’s a joy to watch; like our first half performance against Sheffield.”
The weekend's match against Milwall will be Oxford’s third away game in a row, including long trips to Durham and Sheffield. But away games don’t faze Andy, especially when he gets to go back to where he is from. He expects a positive result from his team, whether home or away. “The North East is a beautiful part of the world, so the away trips are not a problem for me. But I would say that, that’s my home. Getting into London on a Saturday afternoon will be harder!”
“Away from home we are always looking to find advantages. We try to win every game, I'm only happy with the very best – mediocre isn't how we work. We want to be good in possession, clever on the ball, and to score a few goals. If we do that and keep the ball out of our net, we will be happy.”
“Millwall will be one of the toughest games we face this Spring Series. They have some fantastic coaches in Lauren Philips and Lee Burch, and have shown in the results that they are now picking up. Equally, I've worked with a few of the players from Milwall and I know their individual strengths.”
Oxford United Women play Millwall Lionesses on Saturday 22nd April, kickoff is at 17:30 at St Paul's Sports Ground, Rotherhithe.
Tickets for the Women's game will be available to buy on the day and are priced at £5 adults and £2 concessions (over 60s and under 16s). Doors will open from 4.30pm.