U's go down 2-0 at homeUnited went down to a third successive defeat as visitors Aston Villa came away with a 2-0 victory at Northcourt Road on Sunday. Goals from Jade Richards and Olivia Fergusson did the damage, with United's Lauren Allison missing a stoppage-time penalty to add insult to injury.
Manager Les Taylor named an unchanged line-up from the side which lost to Yeovil the previous week, with Allison leading the line alongside wide players Katie Stanley and Holly Pickett and teenagers Laura Nichol and Chloe Bruce continuing in the full-back positions.
But they struggled the come to terms with the visitors' high-pressing game in the early stages and soon found themselves pinned back. Villa's opener appeared inevitable, but when it came with 18 minutes played it was as the result of a goalkeeping error. Demi Lambourne came out to collect what looked like an innocuous through ball, but when she missed it Jade Richards was able to get round her and roll the ball into the unguarded net.
Kerri Welsh could have doubled the lead for the away side with a thunderous effort which cannoned back off the underside of the bar and Abi Cottam was unable to get the rebound under control, allowing Bruce to clear. Cottam was again denied when she slipped between two defenders, but found her shot saved at the near post.
It took until the later stages of the first half for United to really get themselves into the game, with Kayleigh Hines starting to pick out some dangerous passes in the middle of the park. It was an excellent ball through the centre from her which set Lauren Allison away shortly before half-time. On the stretch, Allison beat onrushing goalkeeper Caitlin Leach to the loose ball, but could only turn it past the post.
Katie Wilkinson stung Lambourne's palms with a fierce free-kick, but the United keeper was able to fist it clear and keep the deficit to just one goal at the break.
United started the second half positively, with another excellent ball from Hines almost presenting Allison with a glorious chance, but Maisie Baker was able to turn it behind for a corner at full stretch. The ball across caused chaos in the Villa area, with both Rosie Lane and Holly Pickett having shots blocked, but eventually the visitors were able to clear.
But despite their attacking intent, United were unable to create any clear openings and they were made to pay in the 65th minute when Katie Wilkinson opened up the Oxford defence with a perfectly weighted through ball for substitute Olivia Fergusson to tap home.
The lively Fergusson presented her fellow substitute, Lauren Haynes, with a good opportunity just moments later, carving open the United defence with a square ball to Haynes in the area, but her weak shot was well held by Lambourne.
United were granted the chance of a consolation as the match ticked into stoppage time. A corner found its way back out to Laura Low lurking on the edge of the area and her shot was handled on its way goalwards. Allison stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick and open her account for the season, but she fired it well wide of the goal, putting the final seal on another disappointing afternoon.
United: Lambourne, Nichol (Meade HT), Bruce, Osborne-Ricketts, Lane, Hines, Nutman, Franklin-Fraiture (Pinker 65), Pickett (Low 65), Stanley, Allison. Subs not used: Cox, Chivers, Jaadla.