After a dismal season without a win, which former captain Kim Kilmartin described as a “rebuilding” year for OUWAFC, the Blues really needed to win their first match of the season against Derby last Wednesday. However, with only two preseason training sessions under their belts and a squad that was half made up of brand new players, the odds were very much against them.
The unfortunate Blues were 1-0 down within the first ten minutes due to a messy slip up in the penalty area. However they went on to redeem themselves in the first half thanks to start-of-the-season resilience and the unmistakeable enthusiasm of fresh players. Shiny new centre-midfielder Vail Miller furthered the Blues’ cause with some well-placed corners, one of which ended in a header from skipper Anna Green which bounced tantalising off the post. The Blues were setting up some promising chances and playing great football on the ground. In fact, throughout the first half they looked like scoring, especially Becca May on the right wing who made several great runs and was Derby’s biggest threat of the match.
A drop in pace at the start of the second half meant that Oxford’s defensive line was caught on its back foot and Derby managed to slip another, somewhat slicker, goal past keeper Alana Pain. Help was at hand in the form of Worcester College’s Sam More whose strike went soaring over Derby’s keeper from 25 yards to put the Blues back in the game. Frustratingly, just minutes later Derby extended their lead yet again leaving the Blues with only twenty minutes left to find the goals they needed in order to win their
Subs were made, Mandy Rojek came on for Oxford and soon enough the home side was awarded a penalty. Rojek stood up to take it and skilfully placed it bottom left corner to hit the back of the net. In the dying minutes Tina Gough came agonisingly close to equalising but in the end the Blues had to settle for a disappointing, but by no means tragic, 3-2 defeat.
The Furies had a similarly tough time of it last year and also ended the season without a single win. However, their first match of the new season, against Warwick seconds, had much to recommend it.
The weekend trials had uncovered some new talent in the form of Alice Hunnings, whose impressive performance at right back showed off some confident slide tackles and strong clearances, and Claudia Comberti, who was assertive up front for the Furies.
The inexperienced home side, who had never played together before, were first to score and went 1-0 up in the first half to the delight of the new Furies captain, Amy Trenter.
Disappointingly, some minor errors allowed Warwick to score a couple of sloppy goals which meant the Furies were chasing their opponents for the rest of the match. Even so, they never let Warwick relax and the real brilliance of the Furies’ game came from their former goalkeeper, Chloe Coates, who kept the home side in contention by scoring all three of their goals, including a magnificent long range shot that looped over Warwick’s keeper.
If we compare this showing to the Furies’ disastrous 21-0 defeat against Wolverhampton at the start of last season, it’s clear that this year’s squad is stronger, better organised and more determined than they once were.
Overall, despite the fact that neither OUWAFC side secured a victory in their opening matches, there are promising signs of growth already beginning to emerge in their camp. New talent coming in appears to have given veteran players a new lease of life and the future looks bright for Oxford Women’s Football.