Oxford United Women ended the Spring Series with a 4-0 defeat at home to Doncaster Belles.
Having seen improvements in their previous performances, and facing up against a very good Doncaster side, The Yellows used the opportunity to try out a new system. Showing rotation in their formation and flexibility between their players, the home side set up with three at the back.
Oxford looked to take the initiative right from the off, after just five minutes Ellie Noble tried her luck with a cheeky lob from 20 yards. The Doncaster keeper, Nicky Davies, was well behind it, though. United showed their improved confidence with moments of quick, incisive passing in the midfield, but their final pass was lacking.
Despite this, the quality of the away side soon shone through, regularly using right-back Mayumi Pacheco as the outlet. It was the defender who created the first goal, too, in the 23rd minute. After a weaving run she saw her shot saved by Demi Lambourne, but moments later she found herself free on the right, sweeping a cross into the path of Christie Murray for the tap-in.
Shots from range by Gane and Noble were the only opportunities Oxford created for themselves late in the first half. In the 37th minute Lauren Haynes, in a new, deeper position, managed a fantastic goal-line clearance – Courtney Sweetman-Kirk rounding Lambourne, but the captain was on hand to get the ball clear.
With just seconds left in the first half, Doncaster doubled their lead, Kirsty Hanson with a lovely chipped finished following a counter attack.
Unfortunately for The Yellows the second half followed a similar pattern. Just two minutes in Doncaster had added a third, the ball bobbled in the box, making it hard for the defence to clear, and Sophie Barker nipped in to loft the ball into the top corner.
Lambourne did her best to keep her side in the game, making a number of fantastic saves. The best of which came when Sweetman-Kirk looked set for a tap-in, only to find the ‘keeper sprawling across to make the save.
In the 88th minute the Belles scored their fourth, and final, of the game. Sweetman-Kirk hitting the bar with a shot, the rebound falling nicely to Rebecca Raynor to slot into the Oxford goal.
United’s Spring Series may not have gone well results-wise, but they showed continuous improvement in their play. With a full pre-season and more time spent with the manager, coaching staff, and fellow players they look set to show their true potential in the upcoming Winter Season.
Lambourne; Lee, Haynes ©(Pickett 75’), Lane; Frampton (Umotong 53’), Franklin-Fraiture, Casley (Oliver 45’), Deeley; Noble, Gane, Donovan