United return to league action with a defeat at Bristol
A flurry of goals late in the first half brought Oxford's three-match winning streak to an end with a 4-1 defeat at Bristol City upon their return to FA Women's Super League 2 action following a month-long break. Although Ini Umotong cancelled out Millie Farrow's opener for the hosts, a double from Claire Emslie and a second Farrow strike before the break sealed defeat for the U's.
Laura Rafferty, signed on loan during the week from Chelsea, came into the United defence for her debut as one of two changes to the U's side which beat Watford in their previous match more than a month ago. Georgia Timms earned her second start of the season, while Katja Hakala and Lauren Allison dropped out of the side.
The hosts enjoyed much of the earlier pressure and took the lead in the 18th minute when Loren Dykes fired a dangerous ball across goal for Millie Farrow to tap in from close range. Bristol were then camped in the U's area as they sought to double their lead immediately, with Jodie Brett and former U's loanee Megan Alexander both firing shots over the bar.
However, despite heavy pressure from the hosts, it was United who struck next, equalising against the run of play in the 25th minute. Holly Pickett was desperately unlucky to see her deft 25-yard lob come back off the crossbar, but top scorer Ini Umotong was on hand to nod home on the rebound.
The U's were back on terms only briefly. Three minutes later, Claire Emslie restored the home side's advantage, curling an effort into the far corner of the net from close range after Alexander had pulled the ball back from the bye line.
Emslie struck again three minutes from half-time, again curling an effort across goal and into the far corner, this time from just inside the area. And just a moment later, Farrow had her second of the evening when she burst free to plant the ball in the back of the net at the second attempt.
United didn't allow their heads to drop after the break, but found themselves well marshalled by a confident City side. The lively Georgia Timms did well to race free on the left wing early in the second half, but her shot was well saved by goalkeeper Caitlin Leach.
Umotong was given a good opportunity just after the hour mark when she was felled on the edge of the area. However, she was unable to direct the resulting free-kick on target as her powerful strike skewed high and wide of goal, met with audible frustration from the striker.
Though she remained a notable threat, Umotong was unable to find the second goal which could have put United back in contention. After seizing possession on the left flank, the powerful striker looked certain to score as she bore down on goal, but her wild effort never troubled the keeper as it sailed out for a throw-in.
And when she was tested, Leach proved equal to the task, superbly palming away a delightful Umotong effort from wide on the left-hand side, with Timms unable to keep the ball in play. Substitute Mollie Dyer was also denied by the Vixens keeper in stoppage time, racing onto a well weighted ball over the top before seeing her low drive well stopped.
The defeat ended a positive run of three straight wins for the U's, who will now look to get back to winning ways at home to Yeovil on Thursday evening.
United: Cox, Frampton, Haynes (Noble 73), Lane, Umotong (Dyer 82), Nutman (Baker 64), Franklin-Fraiture, Pickett, Rafferty, Lee, Timms