Oxford United Women were knocked out of the FA National League Cup by Crawley Wasps this afternoon, despite taking the lead through Sophie Baker. Wasps, unbeaten in the National League South-East Division One, equalised deep into stoppage time to take the game into extra time, when two further goals in the first half saw the visitors into the next round.
Crawley fashioned their first chance as early as the second minute, when Emma Plewa got on the end of Sian Heather's cross but was unable to steer the ball home at the back post. In the fifth minute a Heather drive was deflected for a corner, from which Darcey James rose at the far post to head the ball against the post.
United weathered this early storm and started to create opportunities of their own. They should have taken the lead when Kerry Walklett's cross was turned goalwards by Emily Allen but lacked the power to trouble Frankie Gibbs.
At the other end Charlotte Young was picked out alone in the Oxford area but she could only shoot straight at Hannah Cox in the United goal.
In the 25th minute a curling shot from Flo Fyfe forced Gibbs into a full-length save to turn the ball around the post but Crawley broke from the set piece through Jenny Drury, who played in Faye Rabson but her shot across Cox went wide of the far post. On the half-hour mark Heather shot wide when she should perhaps have done better before a Rabson shot on the turn brought a good save out of Cox as the better chances continued to fall Crawley's way but with defences largely on top the game remained goalless at the break.
Crawley started the second half on top and with under a minute gone Rabson forced Cox into a flying save, but it was United who made the breakthrough in the 53rd minute as Sophie Baker got on the end of a free kick that was flicked on by Drury to loop a header out of Gibbs' reach into the bottom corner.
Cox did well to get down to a Plewa shot to preserve the lead but Baker should have grabbed her second shortly afterwards when she found herself with just Gibbs to beat but dallied long enough to allow a covering defender to get a block in.
Crawley came close to an equaliser when Heather got on the end of a long clearance, cut inside and shot against Cox's left-hand post, with Rabson unable to profit from the rebound. Plewa then outpaced Bobby Lynch and a goal looked inevitable but her shot across Cox came back off the same post as the Oxford goal led something of a charmed life.
This was confirmed in the 89th minute when Heather's header from a free kick looped over Cox, only for Lauren Haynes to head the ball off the line but there was no such luck as the game entered the third minute of stoppage time when Naomi Cole's deep free kick was missed by everyone and dropped into the goal to take the game into extra time, although there was still enough stoppage time for either side to have scored.
Crawley took the lead two minutes into extra time when Plewa's shot was deflected to wrongfoot Cox. They extended this in the 11th minute as Cox kept out Rabson's shot but Heather was first to the loose ball with a simple tap in.
With Crawley content to soak up any United pressure, while looking to exploit the space that Oxford were leaving behind them, it became a frustrating afternoon for the U's, who were unable to get back into the game. The Women will now regroup as they return to league action next Sunday at C&K Basildon Ladies.
United: Cox, Bent (Mobbs 111), Haynes, Allen, Beaver, Fyfe, Baker, Walklett (Timms 69), Allison (Noble 113), Stroem (Hennessey 102), Lynch
Words: Martin Brodetsky Pictures: Darryl Fisher