Oxford United Women lose their WSL Spring Series opener to the Toffees
Ini Umotong opened her account for the new FA Women's Super League 2 Spring Series, but it wasn't enough to prevent United's eventual 2-1 defeat at home to Everton in their season opener.
While United's new management team were taking charge of their first game in the FA Women's Super League, the U's squad was mostly unchanged from last year's campaign. Midfielder Lauren Haynes took the captain's armband, while last season's WSL 2 player of the year Ini Umotong led the line up front, with Ella Franklin-Fraiture sitting in behind.
United were beaten twice by Everton last season and fared little better in the opening stages of this campaign. The visitors took the lead in the 13th minute when Simone Magill waltzed into the United area unopposed and although Riva Casley got down well to block her initial effort, the Everton striker reacted quickest to poke in the rebound.
But the U's otherwise shackled their guests, without creating much themselves. Magill proved to be the biggest danger and she went close to adding a second shortly after the half-hour mark, cutting inside from the left and driving a low shot which was well gathered by goalkeeper Demi Lambourne.
The visitors were otherwise reduced to hopeful pot shots, with the clearest opening of the opening 45 minutes falling to Michelle Hinnigan, who collected Danielle Thomas's through ball, but sliced her shot horribly high and wide of goal.
But there was little United could do to keep out a more fired up Everton side after the break and they duly increased their lead just three minutes into the second half. An incisive passing move carved open the United defence for Claudia Walker to race through. Her shot was well saved by Lambourne, but Walker reacted quickest to reach the rebound and square it for Kelly Jones to hammer into the roof of the net.
The margin could have been greater if the visitors had been able to finish their chances. Emily Hollinshead blasted high and wide when granted a clear sight of goal with just over an hour played, while Magill was denied her second of the afternoon shortly after when Lambourne got down well to claim her smart strike on the turn. Lambourne was finally beaten again nine minutes from time when Michelle Hennigan raced clear and rounded the onrushing goalkeeper, but a superb black by Rosie Lane on the line prevented her adding her name to the scoresheet.
United had offered little going forward and striker Ini Umotong cut a frustrated figure in her isolated position up front. But she showed what had made her such a dangerous player last year with two minutes left to play, seizing on a hopeful ball forward, outpacing two Everton defenders and then coolly slotting into the bottom corner.
But the goal came too late for United to stage a comeback as they opened their season with a narrow defeat.
United: Lambourne, Deeley, Lane, Casley, Frampton, Haynes, Noble, Franklin-Fraiture, Umotong, Pickett (Baker 77), Timms (Donovan 66). Subs not used: Thomas.