United fight back to claim a point from 2-0 down
Late goals from Ella Franklin-Fraiture and Kayleigh Hines secured Oxford a hard-fought point at Aston Villa in their final FA Women's Super League 2 match before the summer break. United looked dead and buried with 20 minutes to go as they trailed to Katie Wilkinson and Amy West goals, but staged a remarkable comeback.
With both Lauren Allison and Kat Nutman unavailable, United were forced to make two changes to the side which were narrowly beaten 3-2 at home to Everton last week. Ella Franklin-Fraiture took Nutman's place in midfield, while Gemma Simmonds was drafted in to lead the line.
Goalkeeper Demi Lambourne was given plenty to do in the early exchanges, conceding an early corner when her attempted punch dropped down to the edge of the area before being scrambled behind. And with 14 minutes played the hosts took the lead, Katie Wilkinson heading home unopposed from the the middle of the area after United failed to deal with a corner.
That served as a wakeup call to the United players, who looked much brighter after conceding. Gemma Simmonds had a glorious opportunity to level the scores after half an hour, breaking free of the Villa backline to race onto Kayleigh Hines' flick-on, But goalkeeper Jess Myers came rushing off her line to block as Simmonds raced through on goal, with Hines sending her follow-up effort narrowly wide of the left-hand post.
The hosts made it two shortly after the restart. Amy West was granted too much space in the area to bring down a long ball and turn before picking her spot in the bottom corner of United's net.
It appeared it would need something special for United to get back into the game and that duly came 20 minutes from time, courtesy of Ella Franklin-Fraiture. Timing her run beautifully, she expertly evaded the Villa defence to meet Georgia Timms' hopeful header forward before beautifully lobbing the stranded Myers to halve the deficit.
Visibly boosted by the goal, United raised the tempo as they went in search of an equaliser. It came with ten minutes to play, with Oxford winning a free-kick on the edge of the area after cutting the Villa defence open with a beautiful passing move. Hines stepped up to take the kick, deftly lofting the ball over the wall and into the left-hand corner of the net.
It was all Oxford in the closing stages of the match as the U's pushed on for a winning goal, but they couldn't find it and had to settle for a point to take into the mid-season break.
United: Lambourne, Meade, Bruce, Osborne-Ricketts, Lane, Hines, Franklin-Fraiture, Jaadla (Nichol 67), Pickett (Timms 67), Stanley, Simmonds (King HT). Subs not used: Cox, Pinker.