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Sunday 3rd March 2013

South West Women’s Combination League Cup Quarter-Final

OXFORD UNITED 2 (Allison 28 80)

SWINDON TOWN 4 (Collings 9 64 Shell 78 Picton 82)

Att 57 (h/c) at Abingdon United FC

Entry FREE

Northcourt Road and I go back a long way. I was there in November 1994 when Abingdon United unveiled their floodlights with a game against Oxford United. They were expecting the youth team, but since the first XI had embarrassingly lost at Marlow in the FA Cup so as punishment the first team played the first half and the reserves the second. The second half was notable for keeper Mark Deegan chatting to the substitutes warming up, only to look up horrified as he was lobbed from 40 yards!
I also remember visiting in August 2003 when as part of the Hellenic League’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Oxford United sent a mixture of youth and trialists who were obviously bored, and unprofessional. They were soundly beaten by an unimpressed Hellenic League select XI and all of the trialists were shown the door the next day. I have never been so embarrassed to be an Oxford United fan as I was that day.

Since then Northcourt Road has been a regular destination for North Berkshire League Cup finals, mostly it seems involving Berinsfield FC! Abingdon United clearly take a realistic view of what to charge for its use, knowing that the bar takings will compensate for any perceived loss.

It was pointed out to me in the morning that this was the first aniversary of the Oxford United’s 2-0 win against Swindon Town. With the ladies team playing their Wiltshire rivals it was far too interesting a game to miss. With United top of the league and Swindon in the division below, it looked a home banker too, except this is football, and Oxford United in particular.

I’m coming to the conclusion that in regional football the differences in standard are subtle, and perhaps United lacking the tenacity and organisation of Sahara Osborne-Ricketts was the main reason this fixture was lost. There seemed to be a Sahara-shaped gap in the defence as Chynna Collings headed home from a free kick after 9 minutes, and whilst United has the majority of the possession, there seemed that difficult to define spark missing. Lauren Allison nodded home unopposed for the equaliser, but that seemed to galvanise some unseemly whingeing from the Swindon management. That whingeing got worse when Lindsay Pinker was booked for unsporting conduct, the Swindon manager clearly thought the card should have been red, and hotly debated the point a half time all the way to the referee’s room. He was missed the point completely. His team were holding the red-hot favourites, and too many home players were off-form to force an Oxford win.

The second Swindon goal was similar to the first. A free kick was swung in and again there was Collings to head home. It got worse soon after as a simple diagonal ball found Kirsty Shell, and her lofted drive beat Hannah Cox in the United goal easily. Heads were beginning to drop, but Natasha Caswell’s erudite ball found Allison whose neat slide rule pass into the net gave Oxford hope. That hope lasted a mere 2 minutes and poor defending allowed Ellie Picton to fire home unmarked at the near post. United huffed and puffed, but without the spark it wasn’t to be.

I spoke to Sahara Osborne-Ricketts at half-time; she hopes to be back for United’s next game, the tackle she took at the game against Newcastle was nasty, but as she put it. “I’ll DEFINATELY be back for the Everton game,” Just try to stop her!