Oxford United Women put in a valiant performance but couldn't do enough to prevent a 4-0 defeat at Bristol City this afternoon.
The Robins scored either side of half time through Shania Hayles and Jodie Hutton, before Jesse Wooley and Emily Syme made it three and four to knock United out of the FA Cup in the Fourth Round.
United started with less of the ball than they are used to, as expected against the side that sit a point and a game in hand off the top spot in the Women’s Championship. Riva Casley and Jaime Gotch did well to stifle the initial waves of Bristol possession in the opening twenty, putting their bodies on the line.
Hayles, who looked dangerous from the get-go, had the first real chance of the game on the quarter hour mark, heading over the bar from the edge of the six yard box.
United answered well when Iesha Swaby turned on the edge of the box, struck across goal and forced an excellent save from Bentley down in the bottom right corner.
The midday fog had cleared and made way for sunshine. Naomi Cole cleared a Bristol corner off the line in the 26th minute, and Rose Kite did well to smother a cleverly taken free kick two minutes later.
There was a bizarre moment in the 33rd minute as Robins keeper Fran Bentley picked up the ball outside the area thinking the ref had blown for offside. Cole whipped the free kick in and Bentley made a good save but the flag went up.
Kite made two huge saves at the feet of Abi Harrison with two minutes of the half left, and it looked like United would make it to half time level, but in the last minute of the four added on, that changed.
Lacy Liggett conceded a free kick and the delivery deflected off Casley and Hayles was able to nod home from close range. United were unlucky to go into the break behind, but were level in attitude and application.
Sarah King replaced the cautioned Liggett at the break, but Bristol scored a quick second when Jodie Hutton tapped home from a few yards out as City broke down the left two minutes after the restart. United conceded at two bad times and gave themselves a hill to climb.
City stepped up their game, Hutton almost scoring again directly from a corner and then a free kick in the 55th minute.
Daisy McLachlan and Swaby made way for Georgia Hayes and Tash Stephens with twenty-five minutes to play as United tried to shake things up, but Jesse Woolley put the result beyond any doubt with a volley at the back post in the 69th minute.
Hayes then had to be replaced by Taome Oliver after going down with a knock and Emily Syme scored a great strike from range to make it 4-0 in the final ten minutes.
United were brave and played some good football, but the quickfire double either side of half time sunk them, and Bristol's class that sees them fighting for promotion to the top flight showed.
Only the U's' second defeat of the season, all focus now turns to the Southern Premier Division as United take on Cheltenham Town Ladies next Sunday. See you there.
LINEUP: Kite, Provan, Gotch, Casley, Stevens, Cole (Gray 88), Burridge, Johns, Liggett (King 45'), Swaby (Hayes 65), McLachlan (Stephens 65)
Report by Billy Lawrence, pictures Darrell Fisher