A last-minute penalty from Paige Williams sent United crashing to a first defeat in four games as they were beaten 3-2 at home to Everton. Goals from Lauren Allison and Katie Stanley had put the hosts two goals in front in the early stages, but they were pegged back by efforts from Michelle Hinnigan and Millie Turner, before being beaten in heartbreaking fashion deep into stoppage time.
United’s starting XI was unchanged from the side which beat London Bees the previous week, but with Laura Nichol suffering a foot injury during a development game during the week 16-year-old Georgia Timms earned her first call-up to the senior side, making a late appearance from the bench, while Laura Low was also among the substitutes again after missing out last week.
There were just 12 seconds on the clock when United took the lead, advancing immediately up the centre of the park, before Lauren Allison finished Katie Stanley’s through ball, to open her account for the season. Everton’s first touch of the ball was to pick it out of the net.
Katie Stanley came just inches away from grabbing a goal herself in the 17th minute, trying her luck with an audacious lofted ball from all of 40 yards, which appeared to be dipping in before being tipped over by goalkeeper Kirstie Levell at full stretch. But Stanley didn’t have to wait long for her goal, as just a minute later she doubled United’s lead when she found herself in acres of space in the Everton area to fire home Holly Pickett’s cross at the back post.
The visitors were shocked, but far from out of it as they piled on the pressure trying to find a foothold in the game. Goalkeeper Demi Lambourne had already been called into action to keep out Kelly Jones’ low drive in the 15th minute and she was again alert to the danger soon after when Simone Magill outmuscled Rosie Lane to get the wrong side, but couldn’t beat the keeper with her tame shot.
Lambourne was finally beaten in the 21st minute by a well-placed free-kick from Michelle Hinnigan, curling her effort from the edge of area into the left-hand corner of the United net. After that it was one-way traffic until the break, with Everton pouring forward and putting the home side under considerable pressure. Claudia Walker twice went close with a pair of fierce strikes, the first of which was well saved by Lambourne and the second flying wide of the right-hand post.
The visitors eventualy got the goal they had been threatening shortly after the hour mark, Millie Turner heading home powerfully from a corner to restore parity. They almost seized the lead just moments later when Paige Williams whipped in a dangerous ball across the face of goal, but the unmarked Walker was unable to turn it in at the back post.
It was the visitors who looked the more likely to find a winner in the closing stages and United were indebted to Lambourne for keeping them in the game in 78th minute. After fumbling a ball across she responded excellently, first to block at the feet of Hinnigan before springing back into the air to tip Magill’s follow-up effort over the bar.
But after holding out remarkably well, United were dealt a cruel blow deep into stoppage time. Danielle Turner seized on a misplaced backpass from Isi Meade only to be pulled down by Lambourne before she could apply the finish. Referee Shaun Berry had no hesitation pointing to the penalty spot and Williams fired the spot-kick into the right-hand corner.
United: Lambourne, Meade, Bruce, Osborne-Ricketts, Lane, Hines, Nutman, Jaadla (Timms 83), Pickett (Franklin-Fraiture 76), Stanley, Allison (Simmonds 68). Subs not used: Cox, Chivers, Low.
Oxford United Women Goal Scorers: Allison 1′, Stanley 18′
Everton Ladies FC Goal Scorers: Hinnigan 26′, Turner 64′, Williams 90′
Report by Matt Bruce – Oxford United.