Ladies Lose To Oxford United In New Season's Opener
Sheffield FC came away empty handed from their first match of the new FA WSL2 season, but were desperately unlucky to do so.
An unfortunate Sheffield own goal just before the hour mark was the only difference between the two sides, defender Ellie Gilliatt heading the ball into her own net off a Danielle Carlton free-kick.
Oxford United started the game, as expected, on the front foot, eager to impress the 220 supporters who had made the trip to The U's new home at Oxford City FC.
Trying to exploit areas in behind the Sheffield full-backs, Oxford's very new look team asked questions of the visitors early on, with the newly signed midfield trio of Kayleigh Hines, Steph Williams and the very impressive Dan Carlton pulling the strings in midfield, but Sheffield coped well with the early challenge.
And it was Sheffield who were the first team with a clear sight of goal as Emma Johnson intercepted a loose Williams pass, fed forward Mel Johnson but her effort from the corner of the six yard box was hit straight into the midriff of Oxford keeper, Demi Lambourne.
The teams exchanged long range efforts, Holly Housley and Emma Johnson for Sheffield, and Carlton and Emily Allen for Oxford, but the latter had a great chance on 20 minutes when she was set free behind the Sheffield back line, and forced Dan Gibbons into an excellent close range save to keep parity.
Half and hour gone, and Chloe Dixon and Ellie Gilliatt combined on the edge of the box to work a chance to Emma Johnson in the six yard box, but Lambourne made a superb smothering stop to deny Sheffield the lead. And at the other end, Gibbons was equal to a Ellis Hilman effort from a tight angle, pushing the ball away across goal and Gilliatt was on hand to clear the danger.
The second half started much as the first ended, with both teams playing their part in an entertaining contest and again, it was Sheffield who had the first effort at goal with Emma Johnson connecting well with a long range effort which was fired narrowly over the bar on 49 minutes.
But it was Oxford who took the lead on the hour after Carlton’s lofted free-kick was headed into the back of her own net by Gilliatt in an attempt to clear the danger.
Sheffield reacted really well to the disappointment, and almost equalised straight away when Hannah Dale released Mel Johnson, and her driven ball across the face was just centimetres away from being turned in by Katie Anderson.
The visitors had another great chance minutes later, when Sherry McCue intercepted the ball, fed Mel Johnson 30 yards out and with Lambourne right on the edge of her area, but the striker's effort hit the keeper, and Emma Johnson's long range effort off the rebound drifted just wide of the upright.
With 20 minutes to go, Mel Johnson was payed in again, worked some space by wrong-footing the defender, but her shot was straight into the arms of Lambourne. Other chances came and went for Sheffield: Dixon's cross just fractionally too high for Carla Ward to her her head to, and then the U's keeper picking the ball just over Ward's head off a Housley free-kick, and the final whistle blew as McCue tried a 30 yard effort that drifted high and wide.
So, a really tough result for Sheffield as they come away empty-handed from a match they had sufficient chances to win. But the group can take plenty of positives from this contest, and will be looking to their next match v London Bees to get the first points on the board of the new season.