WSL 2 End of Season Review: Oxford United

A forgettable year of the U's.

WSL 2 End of Season Review: Oxford United
Image credit: Getty Images

After a boom in 2015, Oxford United found themselves back down to ninth in WSL 2 this year, but what went so wrong for the U's in 2016?

Damning results

The year started with an embarrassing 10-0 loss to (soon to be promoted) Brighton in the FA Cup, the result brushed aside as two teams at completely different points in their season. A gutsy 3-5 against Millwall marked the start of their league campaign before a 1-2 loss to Aston Villa, another heavy loss waited for them in their next game, the U’s outclassed at home to Durham. A 2-0 loss at Huish Park preceded their first win of the year, completely absent in the first-half, Oxford came out after the break a different team, playing with confidence and sparkle, Sheffield shocked to be on the end of a 1-0 loss.

The win propelled them into a second, another 1-0 this time over the Lionesses in the preliminary round of the league cup, their next match scheduled to be at the Den was called off with the FA opting to award the U’s the win in a walk-over.

Having suddenly sparked into life Oxford made it four out of four as they came out on top at home to Watford. With a strong run of results – albeit against the weaker teams in the league – Oxford might not have been wanting the mid-season break to come, their form after the restart taking a dip once more.

A 4-1 loss to Bristol provoked one of their stronger performances of the year as they held title-chasing Yeovil at 2-2 in Abingdon, their league cup hopes dashed with a home loss to Birmingham City before an unlucky 3-1 loss to the Bees.

Cruising twenty minutes into their match in Berkhamsted, the U’s were left stunned as the hosts came from 2-0 down to hit them for three in eleven second-half minutes, another loss to add to their tally.

Brushing a 1-0 against Everton off, the U’s gave the 1211 strong crowd a show at the Northcourt as they dominated to best the Bees 4-2. The season finishing with Oxford in a tail spin, thirteen goals conceded and all points dropped in their last five games of the year, Durham, Everton, Villa, Sheffield and Bristol the beneficiaries.

Personnel 

Although the U’s lost/let go a handful of players between the 2015 and 2016 season, that refuses to count of their loss of form, although the U’s would have been stronger with the likes of Sahara Osborne-Ricketts, Katie Stanley, Kayleigh Hines and Destiny Toussaint, Les Taylor still had a strong squad to call on.

Lauren Haynes, Jess Frampton and Katja Hakala have all boosted the team this year. Ironically enough for one of the teams that struggled the most this year, the joint WSL top goalscorer was a winter acquisition and probably one of the signings of the season, Ini Umotong an absolute force to be reckoned with.

No matter what else happened on the pitch for the U’s, Ini was almost always guaranteed to score, when found by her teammates the former Pompey striker busied herself with making life hell for WSL 2 defences. But struggling across the pitch, usually without the possession there was little more Umotong could have done this year, the Nigerian international a star turn in a team that failed to sparkle.

The end of the season came with the news of manager Les Taylor and coach, Jonny Edmunds departure from the women’s side, the team looking to restructure over the winter and use the Spring Series as a spring board for the 2017-18 season.

Although a loyal servant, not just to Oxford United Women but Oxford United in general, Taylor’s departure seems like a brave move from the club, the team stale throughout the year, in need of fresh ideas, many will be sad to see him go but it feels like the only way the U’s can hope to develop in an increasingly competitive league.

The Spring Series promises to be the first step on the road for Oxford, the team will inevitably be in transition but on the basis on performances this year the only way is up.