Oxford United Women lost at home for the second time this season as league leaders Portsmouth won 5-1 at Court Place Farm this afternoon.
Portsmouth led 3-0 at the break and scored a fourth five minutes into the second half. Tash Stephens managed a consolation goal on her debut with 15 minutes remaining, but Nicole Barrett wrapped up proceedings as the game entered stoppage time.
With former Oxford players Riva Casley and Daisy McLachlan in their ranks Portsmouth showed their class as they punished United, who were no match for the part-time professionals.
Fresh off the back of seven straight wins, United started brightly and were a match for their higher-placed opponents. However, Portsmouth were always a threat on the break and there was an early scare for the U’s when Emma Jones got goalside of the Oxford defence, but Paris Sercombe was quickly off her line to block the shot.
In the 17th minute Georgie Freeland burst through but again Sercombe reacted well to make the save.
United had their moments in the opening stages, and on 20 minutes, Lacy-Jai Liggett’s clever ball down the line set Kate Wiseman free and her cross was diverted over her own bar by Dam Lane.
Four minutes later though, former United winger McLachlan got on the end of a deep cross and buried the ball past Sercombe to open the scoring.
It was 2-0 on the half-hour as a Portsmouth corner was cleared as far as Ava Rowbotham, who returned it with interest from 30 yards beyond Sercombe’s despairing dive.
Rowbotham repeated the trick in first-half stoppage time with another lob from distance to put the game beyond United and further cement Portsmouth’s position at the top of the table.
United needed a quick response at the start of the second half, but instead it was the visitors were quicker out of the blocks and they further extended their lead as Freeman had acres of space on the right of the United area to pick her spot in the far corner.
United earned themselves a consolation goal in the 76th minute when Zoe Barratt’s cross was bundled home by substitute Stephens, playing her first game since rejoining the club on loan from Chatham Town earlier this week.
With eight minutes left, Ukrainian midfielder Vitallia Budaieva showed good pace to burst into the area only to see her shot touched onto the post by Pompey keeper Hannah Haughton, who then produced another marvellous save to deny Budaieva from the rebound as Oxford searched in vain for a route back into the game.
It was too little, too late though for the Yellows, who were caught on the break in stoppage time at the end of the game by Portsmouth right-back Barrett.
A difficult afternoon and some lessons to learn going into the final stages of the season.
Oxford United: Sercombe, Provan, Wiseman, Jenkins, Noble (Budaieva 57), Barratt, Liggett (Wellesley-Smith 46), Oliver, Burridge (Stephens 68), Gibson (King 80), Legg