Everton Ladies too strong for the U's
Despite a battling display at Everton, Oxford United Women went down to a second consecutive away defeat as they were beaten 3-0. Claudia Walker put the hosts in front before half-time and Michelle Hinnigan doubled the deficit in the second half, before Walker put the result beyond doubt with her second of the game.
With Lauren Haynes out with an elbow injury and Ella Franklin-Fraiture unavailable for the trip to Halton Stadium, both dropped out of the U's matchday squad, replaced by captain Kat Nutman and Charlie Deeley, making her first senior start. Ellie Noble started the game on the bench, with the returning Katja Hakala coming into the starting XI.
The hosts started on the front foot, subjecting United to some considerable pressure in the opening stages. Michelle Hinnigan's deflected shot dribbled just inches wide of the right-hand upright and Chloe Kelly drew a good save from U's goalkeeper Demi Lambourne with a dangerous dipping effort from range.
But the breakthrough did come just before the half-hour mark when United failed to cut out a ball across goal, with the lurking Claudia Walker on hand to tap in unmarked at the far post.
Oxford responded well and began to enjoy a greater share of possession and territory, but they were unable to transform that into efforts on goal before the break. They had the ball in the net just three minutes into the second half when Lauren Allison's dangerous free-kick was turned in by an Everton defender, but the goal was chalked off for offside.
Leading goalscorer Ini Umotong went agonisingly close to restoring parity shortly afterwards when she found herself in space in front of goal from a lofted ball forward. Capitalising on some hesitant defending, her acrobatic overhead kick beat the keeper only to be scrambled off the line by a well placed defender.
But United's task was multiplied shortly after the hour mark as the hosts struck on the break. Rosella Ayane's cross found Hinnigan free at the back post, whose beautiful volley back across goal left Lambourne with no chance.
And just minutes later Oxford's hopes of salvaging the match were dashed as Walker chested down a lofted ball into the box, spun expertly on the spot and then curled an effort just beyond the desperate grasp of the U's keeper.
United: Lambourne, Frampton, Casley (Dyer 88), Lane, Umotong, Nutman (Noble 83), Allison (Baker 88), Hakala, Rafferty, Lee, Deeley. Subs not used: Cox.
Report by Matt Bruce. Photo by Tom Garner.