Match Preview – Oxford United Women vs Watford Ladies
Oxford United Women head home for their final two games of the season, starting on Sunday against Watford Ladies. United have previously played three away games in a row, and although they have nothing to show for it on the stats sheet, their performances have been vastly improving under manager Andy Cook.
They face a Watford side just one place above them in the table with a record of one win, two draws and three losses. The Yellows will need to be wary of Rinsola Babajide and Merrick Will who have scored three and twice, respectively, this season. United manager Cook understands the threat The Hornets pose, and is looking for fight from his team. “We expect a very well drilled and disciplined side. It’ll be another very tough game; we need to be focused and positive. This game will be won and lost on which team wants to fight the most for it. Yes a bit of skill and good play will score a goal no doubt but it will come down who wants it more.”
Oxford could use the fact that they are at home to their advantage, but Andy is always looking for a strong, controlling performance home or away. “Games at home are always an advantage. We look to control every game we are in, home or away. How we do that will change depending on our tactics and the teams we are playing. It doesn't matter which position a team is in in the league, at the start of the game it’s always 0-0.”
The Yellows have rotated a lot this season, both forced and tactical. This has meant opportunities for a lot of youth players. The coaching staff have been trusting in their tactical sense and expect a fluid aspect to their play.
“If you look at all the positions we have rotated within the squad, the players need to understand the game. It doesn't matter where they start; a formation is a defensive template for a team. When our team has possession if our players stick to their position they will be marked, so the full-backs, just like the forwards, need to understand the game. If they have space to play into they attack it, they don't stand still. Defensively, every team needs a shape and formation to work from, but in possession they need to work in relation to the tactics we give them.”
Centre-back Rosie Lane wore the captain's armband for the first time in three years at Oxford United, and while she was thrilled with the honour, she made sure her game didn’t change. “Sunday was the first time leading the team out in three years at the club, so it was a nice feeling. I’m naturally quite a vocal person on the pitch anyway, so that aspect didn’t really change. It was quite easy to get on with my usual game.”
More than just being a captain, as one of the more experienced members in the squad, Rosie appreciates that she, along with others, have to help the younger players breaking into the team. “We have quite a young side, so it’s important for the experienced players to guide the younger players. I think it’s important that we keep encouraging the younger players, making sure they get the praise they deserve.”
“I think we’ve been unlucky with a lot of our results. If you look at our performances, there are games we drew that we should have won, and games we lost that we deserved more from. So it would be nice to end the Spring Series on a high and put some more points on the board in order to make a statement for the Winter League starting in September. We just need to go into our last two games worrying about ourselves, play our own game, be clinical and tighten up slightly on defensive errors.”
Rosie echoes her manager's statements that, while they are disappointed with results, the team are definitely heading in the right direction. “At the start of the season we would have hoped to have achieved better results and have more points on the table, but it’s clear that we are going in the right direction and our performances are improving. We’ve learnt a lot and we are still building on things, ready to compete in the winter season. The Spring Series has been a good opportunity for everyone to have more game time and for us to get to know Andy Cook and vice versa. It has also been good for some of the younger players to gain more experience. We are now just looking forward to our last two games.”
Oxford United Women play Watford Ladies at NorthCourt Road, Abingdon on Sunday 30th April. Kickoff is at 15:00 and you can buy tickets HERE
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