Sunday 23rd February 2013 ko 13.00
Women’s FA Cup 4th Round
OXFORD UNITED 2 (Stanley 8 Caswell 14)
NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 (Havelock 51)
@Kassam Stadium (Oxford United FC)
So for me it was two games at the same ground, over two days in the freezing cold. There was just part of the lower tier of the South Stand open for this game, but this was game not to be missed, as it was the first time Oxford United Ladies had played in the main stadium, and this has been a season as successful as their male equivalents has been disappointing.
Like the men, the women play in the fourth tier of their league, the South-West Women’s Combination, having been promoted last season. They’re top, and to get to the 4th round of the WFA Cup, their most successful run yet, they had to beat Premier League National Division Charlton Athletic (the 2nd tier) away which they did, 2-1 a frankly outstanding achievement. Their reward was a home tie, at the main stadium, against a side 8th in the 3rd tier Premier League North Division.
It was obvious from the outset that the big stadium wasn’t going to worry Oxford in the slightest. Over the last couple of seasons a winning mentality has been built up, and at no point did they look from a division lower. Centre half and captain Sahara Osborne-Ricketts led by example. She’s played for Arsenal and Watford, and a mixture of experience, skill, and often sheer bloody-mindness was far too much for the Geordie forward line to cope with. They barely got a sniff, and she played the last hour clearly injured following a nasty challenge from Lizzy Frazer. Frazer was booked but nothing was going to stop Osborne-Ricketts.
At right back flame-haired Isi Meade has lost possession twice in the 180 minutes I’ve seen her play, and that allows 32 goals in 19 games Lauren Allison to prosper. She’s quick, actually make that very quick, but today it was strike partner Karen Stanley who benefited, a sublime lob setting Oxford on their way. That lead was doubled by Natasha Caswell’s strike, yes the keeper dived all around it, but if you don’t shoot……are you reading this Oxford United men? It was just reward for Caswell, look at all good things that come from OULFC, most originate from Caswell’s right foot.
The beginning of the 2nd half was the visitors’ purple patch. A free kick was swung in from the right, and when it wasn’t properly cleared Jess Havelock pocked home at close range, to give Newcastle a life-line they barely deserved. It proved to be a false dawn as Osborne-Ricketts marshalled the defence superbly, and as the clock wound down it was Oxford on the attack. Allison had a shot well saved before substitute Dani Anderson saw her shot cleared off the line. In the final attack Holly Pickett’s shot hit the crossbar, but soon, after the final whistle signalled joyous celebrations.
And yes, even this cynical watcher grinned. For this is a side you can believe in, yes they have frailities, all teams do but there’s something infectious in that. Oh, and finally no-one complained about the pitch. Odd that!