United go down to a late goal despite a determined display
Oxford United slipped to a third successive FA Women's Super League 2 defeat after going down 1-0 at home to Everton. Despite a vastly improved performance over recent displays against London Bees and Watford, the end result was the same as Emily Hollinshead's scrappy goal gave the visitors victory.
A combination of illness and unavailability left manager Les Taylor with a depleted squad to choose from. Lauren Allison missed out with a chest infection which had forced her off at half-time the previous week and Lauren Haynes was injured, while Holly Pickett travelled to Spain in her coaching role with United's youth team, leaving her unavailable for selection. In goal, Demi Lambourne replaced Hannah Cox, who dropped to the bench, while Georgia Timms and Ellie Noble also came into the side. Madison Lee was handed the captaincy, with regular captain Kat Nutman still sidelined with a knee injury.
Both sides started brightly, with the opening stages of the match played at a furious tempo. Goalkeeper Demi Lambourne was certainly kept busy by Everton's dangerous strike force, but she proved equal to the task, tipping wide Rosella Ayane's ambitious 25-yard strike after nine minutes.
At the other end, United had opportunities to get in behind the Everton defence, but were unable to capitalise. Ini Umotong played in Ella Franklin-Fraiture with a gorgeous ball over the top, but the U's midfielder was denied before she could lob the onrushing goalkeeper by the offside flag. Umotong herself got the wrong side of the visitors' defence as she raced onto a long ball forward, only to be hauled down on the edge of the box. The resulting free-kick from Ellie Noble was just inches over the bar.
As the first half wore on the visitors began to take control, but found themselves frustrated. Chloe Kelly missed the target twice in quick succession from close range. Lambourne also foiled the away side, leaping to her left to stop Claudia Walker's well-struck shot in the 34th minute before excellently palming away Krystle Johnson's strike at full stretch just a moment later.
The second half couldn't match the intensity of the first. United looked at their most dangerous when on the break, exemplified when Umotong burst free before picking out Franklin-Fraiture with a superb ball, but the United winger's shot was tame and easily gathered by the goalkeeper.
Everton, who had been well marshalled ever since the break by the disciplined U's defence, took the lead in scrappy fashion with just 13 minutes to play. United failed to deal with a corner, allowing substitute Emily Hollinshead to scramble home at the back post.
Jess Frampton denied them a second six minutes later, clearing off the line after another goalmouth scramble. But it was the visitors who looked more likely to grab a second in the closing stages, as the exhausted U's were unable to threaten an equaliser.
United: Lambourne, Frampton, Casley, Lane, Umotong, Franklin-Fraiture, Nichol, Rafferty, Lee, Timms (Baker 83), Noble