REPORT: Oxford United 2-4 Durham Women

Durham Women picked up another three points in FA WSL 2 courtesy of a 4-2 win over Oxford United.

In a thrilling encounter, the Wildcats found themselves behind early on thanks to Hannah Short’s opener.

But Beth Hepple levelled before the break before strikes from Zoe Ness and Sarah Robson extended the lead in the second half.

Ellis Hillman pulled one back for the hosts, but Ness struck again late on to seal victory.

Manager Lee Sanders made three changes from the side that were beaten by Aston Villa over a month ago, as Nicola Worthington, Kathryn Hill and Ellie Christon all stepped into the starting line-up in the first game of 2018.

And Durham couldn’t have wished for a worse start to the new year, as they found themselves behind after only four minutes.

After a corner was cleared the second ball into the area wasn’t dealt with by the visitors, and Short reacted quickest to prod home from close range.

Falling behind buoyed Durham, however, with Hepple seeing a shot blocked and firing over as the visitors looked to force their way back into the game.

And they found a leveller on 21 minutes as Hepple swapped passes with Ness before slotting into the bottom corner.

Durham were starting to dictate proceedings with Jordan Atkinson flashing an effort past the far post before a free-kick found Kathryn Hill who steered her volley over.

Nicki Gears and Ness also came close as the Wildcats finished the half strongly, but couldn’t find a way through.

Oxford almost made Durham pay early in the second half too, with stopper Megan Borthwick having to save smartly after a wicked free-kick looked to deflect in.

And the importance of that save was seen moments later when the Wildcats took the lead – Gears’ cross deflecting into the path of Ness who needed no second invitation and drilled home.

Substitute Emily Roberts then almost added a third, only for her effort to graze the post and go out.

But there was to be a third when Robson connected with Hepple’s corner and somehow manged to force her header past Demi Lambourne.

That didn’t deter Oxford though, who continued to push forward and could have pulled a goal back were it not for the heroics of Hill who acrobatically cleared off the line after Chloe Chivers’ lob had beaten Megan Borthwick.

The game then took a rather bizarre turn when the referee was forced to withdraw through injury.

After a ten-minute hunt, a replacement official – decked out in jeans and a luminous orange bib- was found and play could resume.

That incident saw plenty of added time which yielded two further goals.

First Hillman pulled one back for the hosts – the winger finding space in the area to fire high past Borthwick.

Then Ness restored the Wildcats two-goal cushion as she reacted quickest to prod home after Hill’s header was only parried.

That rounded off a fantastic afternoon of football and saw the Wildcats become the first side to win at Oxford in FA WSL 2 this season.

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