Oxford United Women lose away to Sheffield in their penultimate WSL2 game
Oxford United Ladies went down to a narrow 2-1 defeat away to Sheffield upon the resumption of their FA Women's Super League 2 campaign after a five-week break. The U's arguably deserved more from the game as they were undone by two goals in as many minutes early in the second-half, with Ini Umotong's late effort proving too little too late.
Manager Les Taylor made three changes to the side which started against Aston Villa five weeks previously, with Lauren Haynes, Madison Lee and Georgia Timms coming into the side in place of Jess Frampton, Ellie Noble and the unavailable Lauren Allison.
United spent much of the first half on the back foot, but restricted the home side mostly to pot-shots from outside the area. Goalkeeper Demi Lambourne dealt with them comfortably, claiming strikes from Emma Johnson and Emma Lipman in the opening moments. Lipman was given a clearer sight of goal in the 12th minute when Hannah Cain whipped in a free-kick from wide on the left, finding her teammate unmarked at the back post but unable to divert her header on target.
At the other end, United looked the more potent attacking force. Pressing high up the pitch, Katja Hakala seized possession before laying it off to Ini Umotong, who excellently worked herself into space before firing a powerful shot narrowly wide of the bottom left-hand upright. And the United striker was incensed not to be awarded a penalty shortly after when she went down under a clumsy challenge from Ellie Gilliatt, only for the referee to award a corner
And the half was brought to a thrilling end with chances in both boxes. A goalmouth scramble in the Sheffield area sat up perfectly for United captain Kat Nutman, but her shot was charged down and cleared for the hosts to break up the left flank, but Gilliatt's cross was just beyond the reach of a stretching Cain.
United started the second half brightly with a sustained spell of pressure, but they were caught cold 12 minutes into the half when Sheffield captain Carly Ward shimmied through two challenges before curling a low effort beyond the reach of the United keeper and into the bottom corner.
And having been well on top, United somehow found themselves two goals down just moments later when Rhema Lord-Mears unleashed an unstoppable effort from the edge of the area, which rocketed into the top left-hand corner.
The U's stuck to their task and always looked dangerous, but were unable to turn pressure into clear chances. And as United committed more players forward as they tried to get back into the game, the home side were able to capitalise on the extra space to carve out a number of openings. Perhaps inspired by the two goals at the start of the half, Cain, Lord-Mears and Gilliatt all went close with hopeful efforts from the edge of the area.
As the match ticked into the third minute of stoppage time, Oxford finally got the goal they deserved when Ella Franklin-Fraiture flicked on a long punt forward for Umotong to race onto and lift over the onrushing Sheffield keeper. However, the goal came too late in the game to spark a revival and United's defeat was confirmed just moments after the restart.
Just one game remains for the yellows this season, as title-chasing Bristol City visit the Northcourt next Sunday.
United: Lambourne, Haynes, Lane (Frampton 76), Umotong, Nutman, Franklin-Fraiture, Pickett (Baker 76), Hakala, Lee, Timms, Deeley (Casley HT). Sub not used: Cox.
Report by Matt Bruce.