Oxford United got their 2015 FA Women’s Super League 2 season off to a winning start with a 1-0 home win over Watford. Sahara Osborne-Ricketts struck the decisive blow with a well-taken free-kick midway through the first half to put her former club to the sword.
With sickness ruling out last season’s top scorer Lauren Allison and Amy Chivers, United drafted in Chloe Bruce and Kerry Walklett from the development squad, with the former starting at right back. On the opposite side, Isi Meade – in her second spell with the U’s – came in her for her first appearance in WSL 2.
United started brightly, with captain Sahara Osborne-Ricketts’ ambitious long-range free-kick dropping harmlessly onto the roof of the net with one early effort. That proved to be just a sighter, however, as in the 20th minute Osborne-Ricketts opened United’s account for the season with a well-struck free-kick, which took a slight deflection on its way into the bottom corner.
Just four minutes later the yellows had the ball in the back of the net again when Gemma Simmonds burst free and slotted home. But United’s celebrations were cut short by the raised flag of the referee’s assistant.
United started the second half as they finished the first and could have doubled the lead in the second minute of the half, Gemma Simmonds connecting well with a volley, but it was well held by Watford keeper Shayla Burgess.
The visitors were much stronger after the break and enjoyed more possession and territory than in the first half. United goalkeeper Demi Lambourne was called upon to rush out and block Kate Natkiel as she burst free during one particularly dangerous attack.
Oxford remained dangerous throughout and again saw a goal disallowed after the Watford keeper had dropped the ball into her own net under pressure from several Oxford players. The home side celebrated what they thought was a second goal, but referee Sian Piret ruled it out for a foul on Burgess.
The Hornets began to pile on considerable pressure as they chased an equaliser, but Oxford defended stoutly and continued to look dangerous on the break. Another Osborne-Ricketts free-kick was inches from sealing victory, drifting just over the bar.
Osborne-Ricketts struck the bar again in the dying moments with another free-kick, but it mattered little in the end as they held on for an impressive opening-day victory.
United: Lambourne, Meade, Hines, Osborne-Ricketts, Lane, Stanley, Nutman (Walklett 90+2), Pickett, Simmonds (Pinker 83), Franklin-Fraiture (Low 71), Bruce. Subs not used: Cox, Jaadla.
Report by Matt Bruce Oxford United.