Full time report as United start with a win
Oxford United Women kicked off their WSL 2 season with an excellent 1-0 win over Watford this evening. Captain Sahara Osborne-Ricketts' 20th-minute free kick was enough to give them victory and start their season in style in a game that they dominated.
With sickness ruling out last season's top scorer Lauren Allison and Amy Chivers, United drafted in Chloe Bruce and Kerry Walklett from the development squad, with the former starting at right back. On the opposite side, Isi Meade - in her second spell with the U's - came in for her first appearance in WSL 2.
United started brightly, with captain Osborne-Ricketts' ambitious long-range free-kick dropping harmlessly onto the roof of the net with one early effort. That proved to be just a sighter, however, as in the 20th minute Osborne-Ricketts opened United's account for the season with a well-struck free-kick, which took a slight deflection on its way into the bottom corner.
Just four minutes later the Yellows had the ball in the back of the net again when Gemma Simmonds burst free and slotted home. But United's celebrations were cut short by the raised flag of the referee's assistant.
United started the second half as they finished the first and could have doubled the lead in the second minute of the half, Gemma Simmonds connecting well with a volley, but it was well held by Watford keeper Shayla Burgess. The visitors were much stronger after the break and enjoyed more possession and territory than in the first half. United goalkeeper Demi Lambourne was called upon to rush out and block Kate Natkiel as she burst free and the closing minutes were tense as United dropped deeper to defend their lead.
However, having had one effort ruled out for offside and another for a foul on the keeper, the U's had done enough to win the game and undoubtedly created the better chances in a hugely enjoyable game played in front of over 300 fans.
United: Lambourne, Meade, Hines, Osborne-Ricketts, Lane, Stanley, Nutman (Walklett 90), Pickett, Simmonds (Pinker 83), Franklin-Fraiture (Low 71), Bruce.