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Watford 2 (Farrow 47, Mason 74) Oxford Utd 3 (Osborne-Ricketts 28, Stanley 84, Toussaint 85)
A dramatic late comeback saw Oxford United take all three points from their WSL 2 clash with Watford at Berkhamsted FC.
Trailing 2-1 after a stirring second half fightback by the Golden Girls in pouring rain, U's scored twice in 90 seconds to take the win against the bottom club who had looked set for their first home league win.
Oxford started the match on the front foot with Destiney Toussaint, who was outstanding throughout, testing debutant keeper Deger Zekai at her near post in the first minute. The visitors continued to dominate, giving the Watford defence no peace. Corners were especially dangerous, Kayleigh Hines powering in a header which hit the far post before rebounding wide off a defender on 26 minutes.
Toussaint's persistence led to the opening goal, winning a corner which Rosie Lane headed down for Sahara Osborne-Ricketts to stoop low and nod home from close in.
Hines went close to adding to the lead with a 25 yard effort which drifted just wide of Zekai's goal, then the keeper made a fine save from a low Holly Pickett shot, diving to push the ball away for a corner. Little had been seen of the Watford attack in a lacklustre half which Oxford had controlled.
All this was to change almost from the restart. Kim Farrow broke free on the left in the 47th minute and drifted a cross shot over Demi Lambourne and in at the far post. Suddenly the home team were dangerous with Farrow and Ellie Mason finding good positions and Adekite Fatuga-Dada having a good contest with Isi Meade on the Watford right.
Oxford still looked threatening but it was Watford who made the breakthrough when Mason found space beyond the far post to drill a crisp low shot under Lambourne to give the home side the lead on 73 minutes.
A fine save by Zekai soon after preserved the advantage and it seemed that the Golden Girls had the match in their grasp when Oxford, using attacking substitutions very effectively, turned the match around.
Two very similar goals came from high balls lofted towards the centre of the Watford area, with just over a minute between them, broke Watford hearts. On neither occasion could the home defence clear and first Katie Stanley lobbed in directly from distance then Toussaint forced a loose ball home, despite protests about the legality of challenges in the build ups.
A nasty injury to defender Nicole Pepper in the winning goal incident led to nine minutes of added time but Watford were unable to force a good opening to equalise.
Defeat was in some ways harsh on a very young but spirited Watford team. but Oxford continued their rise up the WSL2 table this season, having gone through similar hard times themselves last season to those being endured by the Watford team and their sizeable and supportive fan base.
Watford: Deger Zekai, Nicole Pepper (sub Josie Green 90mins), Leighanne Robe, Mollie Burgess, Grace Gillard, Poppy Jones (sub Emily Heaslip 45mins), Phoebe Read, Stacie Donnelly, Adekite Fatuga-Dada, Kim Farrow, Anneka Nuttall (sub Ellie Mason 67mins). Subs not used: Megan Wynne, Tricia Gould, Amber Tullett, Jordan Littleboy.
Oxford Utd: Demi Lambourne, Laura Nichol, Sahara Osborne-Ricketts, Rosie Lane, Isi Meade, Katherine Nutman (sub Helen King 77mins), Kayleigh Hines, Ella Franklin-Fraiture (sub Rebecca Dandridge 83mins), Katie Stanley, Destiney Toussaint, Holly Pickett (sub Lauren Allison 72mins). Subs not used: Hannah Cox, Lindsay Pinker.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Katie Stanley gets in a cross past Grace Gillard
(middle) Destiney Toussaint battles with Mollie Burgess
(bottom) Demi Lambourne slides in to challenge Ellie Mason
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