Umotong goal seals three points
Oxford United Women claimed their first points of the FA Women's Super League 2 season with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sheffield at the Northcourt on Sunday. Striker Ini Umotong's fourth goal of the season in the 61st minute proved the difference between the two sides, lifting United above their opponents and off the bottom of the table.
With Rosie Lane dropping out of the side due to a thigh injury, youngster Riva Casley came back into the centre of defence. Captain Kat Nutman returned to the side after missing Wednesday night's trip to Yeovil, with Ellie Noble missing out. Lauren Allison returned from injury to take a place on the bench, having missed the previous two games.
It was the visitors who made most of early running. Jodie Michalska headed into the back of the net early in the game, but not before referee Kevin Howick had blown his whistle for a foul in the build-up. Hannah Dale had a go from 20 yards, but couldn't direct her shot on target 20 minutes in, but closest of all was Sherry McCue, who struck the outside of the post from the edge of the area after Ellie Gilliatt's cross had been headed away from goal.
United's best chance of the first half fell to Ini Umotong in the 23rd minute, breaking quickly up the right-hand side before flashing an effort across the face of goal. Holly Pickett also went close, darting in front of her marker to meet Laura Nichol's ball across from the right wing, but she was unable to get sufficient power on her volley to beat goalkeeper Juliana Draycott at the near post.
The second half was slow to get started, with the aerial acrobatics of the planes from the nearby Abingdon Air Show providing much of the early entertainment. However, the match roared into life just after the hour mark with efforts at either end. Moments after Dale's thunderous 30-yard strike had almost caught Cox out, rebounding off her shins before the U's keeper gathered at the second attempt, United then raced up the other end and took the lead. The tricky Nichol laid the ball off for Umotong in space in the area to calmly sidefoot past the despairing outstretched leg of the Sheffield keeper.
United rarely looked troubled thereafter. Substitute Emma Johnson went closest for Sheffield in the closing moments with a powerful shot, which was well blocked by Jess Frampton, with Cox expertly gathering the resulting corner. Although Sheffield attempted to mount some pressure during the five minutes of added time, they were expertly marshalled by a disciplined U's defence, who held out for a first clean sheet of the season.
United: Cox, Frampton, Haynes, Casley, Umotong, Nutman (Baker 55), Franklin-Fraiture, Pickett (Allison 55), Nichol (Deeley 90), Hakala, Lee. Subs not used: Bruce, Lambourne, Weston.
Report by Matt Bruce.