Missed chances cost Women's side
Oxford United Women paid the price for their failure to convert their chances as they were beaten 1-0 at home to Aston Villa in FA Women's Super League 2. Despite creating numerous goalscoring opportunities, the U's were unable to finish them and were made to suffer when Kerri Welsh headed home for the visitors.
With Laura Rafferty returning to parent club Chelsea and illness ruling out Madi Lee, Georgia Timms and Riva Casley, manager Les Taylor made three changes from the side which travelled to Everton a fortnight ago. Holly Pickett, Ella Franklin-Fraiture and Ellie Noble returned to the starting XI in their place.
The first chance of note fell to Noble, firing a low first-time shot at Villa keeper Grace Moloney after some good work from captain Kat Nutman. And just moments later the U's really should have been in front after Lauren Allison beat her marker and drew another strong save from the visiting keeper, only for Ella Franklin-Fraiture to blaze the rebound over with the goal gaping.
At the other end, Amy West went close twice in quick succession, first volleying wide at the back post and then striking low from the edge of the area from a corner, which forced United keeper Demi Lambourne to tip the ball just past the post.
Moloney was called into action again when Ini Umotong raced clear onto a low ball, but her left-footed shot lacked power and was easily stopped by the Villa goalkeeper. Allison was next to sting Moloney's hands, putting on a terriffic burst of pace to break away on the right wing, before firing at goal from a tight angle, which was turned behind by the away side's goalkeeper.
The visitors were mostly restricted to long-range efforts, with Chloe Jones looping the ball over the head of Lambourne to come crashing down on the roof of the net and Sarah Mayling firing an effort way over the bar and into orbit.
Allison was again involved as United opened up the visitors again in the closing stages of the half, excellently extricating herself from a tight situation in the corner before pulling it back for Franklin-Fraiture to strike wide.
United started the second half much as they finished the first, with Ini Umotong racing clear onto a through ball but failing to beat the onrushing Moloney. And the U's fell behind against the run of play after 54 minutes when Jade Richards headed a cross back across the face of goal for the unmarked Kerri Welsh to nod in.
Having fallen behind, United struggled to break down a disciplined Aston Villa defence. They came closest five minutes from time when Allison seized on a poor header from Beth Merrick, cutting in from the left wing and beating the keeper from the tightest of angles, only to see her shot crash back off the inside of the post and into the grateful goalkeeper's waiting arms.
But the U's were just unable to find the vital goal as they slipped to the narrowest of defeats.
United: Lambourne, Frampton, Lane (Baker HT), Umotong, Nutman, Allison, Franklin-Fraiture, Pickett (Weston 74), Hakala, Deeley, Noble. Subs not used: Cox, Haynes, Dyer.
Report by Matt Bruce.