Women lost to the Sky BluesOxford United Women were beaten 3-0 at home by WPL North leaders Coventry City in the third round of the FA Women's Cup. It meant United's first competitive match of 2015 ended in defeat, with the U's now having to wait more than six weeks for their next taste of meaningful action.
Manager Les Taylor named a strong side, with every player having featured for the U's during the 2014 WSL season. Teenagers Demi Lambourne, Ella Franklin-Fraiture and Laura Nichol all started, with the experience of captain Sahara Osborne-Ricketts, Kayleigh Hines and Kat Nutman providing a strong backbone. But United got off to the worst possible start, falling behind inside a minute when former Oxford triallist Amber Hughes darted up the right wing and crossed for Destiny Toussaint to poke the visitors in front with just 30 seconds on the clock. Shellshocked United soon found themselves facing an onslaught with further chances from the lively Hughes, Toussaint and striker Helen Dermody.
The visitors doubled their lead after 15 minutes when Dermody beat the offside trap before squaring for Toussaint to slide in for her second of the afternoon. Toussaint's match was about to come to an end, however, as just five minutes later she was shown a straight red for kicking out at Sahara Osborne-Ricketts as the United captain lay prone on the ground. That proved just the spark to finally fire Oxford into life and the home side dominated the remainder of the half. Katie Stanley and Holly Pickett both saw efforts blocked by some desperate Coventry defending and Kayleigh Hines headed a corner just wide as the U's pressed forward in search of a way back into the match, but at every turn their route to goal was blocked by a Coventry side with defensive fortitude in abundance.
Oxford again enjoyed the lion's share of possession after the break, but struggled to break down the Coventry backline and were mostly restricted to shots from distance. Hines went close with one such effort shortly after the restart, firing narrowly over from 25 yards out. Osborne-Ricketts came even closer from an even greater distance soon after, unleashing a stunning 30-yard strike which was just tipped over by Coventry goalkeeper Susan Wood. Wood was again on hand to stop Hines' effort after the U's midfielder had found space to let loose a shot inside the Coventry area and when the ball rebounded to Laura Nichol she was desperately unlucky to see her strike hit the edge of the post.
With United pressing ever higher up the pitch as time began to run out, they left themselves vulnerable to the counter-attack as the visitors made it safe in the 73rd minute. A simple ball over the top set Dermody away to fire in the third past the defenceless Demi Lambourne in the Oxford goal. There were still chances for the U's in the closing stages, with Lauren Allison seeing her header cleared off the line after Rosie Lane had knocked the ball back across a crowded goalmouth for her. Substitute Gemma Simmonds then headed straight at goalkeeper Wood when picked out by Osborne-Ricketts in the final moments of the match.
United deserved at least one goal for their efforts on the day, but their luck was well and truly out as they exited the FA Women's Cup at the first hurdle for the second year running.
United: Lambourne, Nichol (King 68), Chivers, Osborne-Ricketts, Lane, Hines, Stanley, Nutman, Allison, Pickett (Low 68), Franklin-Fraiture (Simmonds 68). Subs not used: Cox, Tierney, Pinker.
Report by Matt Bruce. Pictures by Nigel Chivers.