Fri, 14. Apr. 2017

Preview: Oxford United (H), Saturday 15 April 2017

Sheffield FC Ladies look to break their streak of three consecutive league defeats, whilst Oxford United visit the Home of Football in search of a first Spring Series win.

With neither side hitting top form so far this season, Saturday afternoon's kick off in the FA Women's Super League Spring Series represents a great opportunity for one team to kick start their season. 

An opening day 2-1 win at Millwall Lionesses is the only league win Sheffield FC have recorded this season, something that Zoe Johnson's side are determined to try to put right this week-end. Defeat at league leaders Durham in the next fixture was followed up by back-to-back 2-1 defeats at the hands of Everton and London Bees, clubs occupying three of the current top form teams in WSL2.

A winless Oxford have two points so far this season, courtesy of draws against Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa. Interestingly, The U's have lost to exactly the same opposition as Sheffield so far, and in the case of Durham and Everton, but the same score line. A 3-1 loss at London Bees leaves United in ninth place, but they would jump above Sheffield with a win tomorrow.

Last season, their was a win a piece for either side in their home meeting in WSL2. Ini Umotong’s late consolation goal was in vain as Oxford succumbed to a 2-1 defeat in their last meeting at the Coach & Horses ground in October 2016, with captain Carla Ward and Rhema Lord-Mears netting for Sheffield.

Before that, the reverse fixture in May 2016 ended in a narrow Oxford win, forward Ini Umotong’s strike after the hour mark enough to claim three points.

Sheffield manager, Zoe Johnson, summed up her thoughts earlier in the week: "We know Oxford have always been hard to beat, and having a new manager at the helm in Andy Cook, I’m sure that he will have them well drilled, so we’re expecting a tough game. Like ourselves, Oxford haven't got off to the best of starts, so both teams will be looking at this game as a big chance to get the three points and move up the table." 

"After the London Bees match, we were extremely disappointed as a group not to take any points from the game as it was probably our best performance of the season so far. We looked solid at the back and I felt we looked comfortable in possession of the ball and created a lot of chances, yet we just weren't clinical enough. We’ve looked to improve our play in the final third in the last couple of weeks, and to be more clinical, so hopefully we can add that to our performance from the last game, and convert our chances better this week-end." 

"We’ve had a positive fortnight in training, so I’m hoping we can kick on and put together a good performance this afternoon, but we know we have to be at our best to ensure we take anything from the game on Saturday." 

Both sides have scored just four goals each this season so it is likely to be a close-fought fixture on Saturday, as they look to blow away early-season cobwebs and lay down a marker for the rest of the campaign.

Sheffield forward, Hannah Cain, recognises that her team need to pick up their form in front of goal: “Our loss to London Bees last time out was down to our finishing. We had so many chances and got into all the right positions, it was just the end product. We were in front of goal in the same situation on three occasions when they all went over the bar. But we need to carry on doing what we're doing as the Bees game has proved that we've done well. 

"We've brought in Jenna [Dear], so we need to get to know how she plays and can work well with the team we've got. We also need to improve our finishing as that's what has been holding us back. Other than that we just need to keep on doing what we're doing.”

Oxford's skipper, defender Lauren Haynes: “The performances are getting better, and if they are getting better then teams are going to be more worried about us. People are already looking at us differently this year and that is the mindset we want to put into these clubs.

“We are a team and we can play football. The table might not reflect that but that is down to our individual errors.

“Sheffield away, we are definitely up for it and definitely looking for those three points. We are not going to back off. Hopefully everything we are doing, the next game it is just going to click, and that is going to be the game that is going to be the changing point for Oxford United.”

The match kicks off at 4pm at the Home of Football Stadium, Sheffield Road, Dronfield, S18 2GD. Get your tickets in advance here and save money on turnstile prices. 

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