Late coaches, late kick-offs, mismatched socks, only playing 60 minutes and the away team deciding to drive through Central London on the day of the Prudential Cycle Event. This fixture was quickly spiralling out of control and could have ended in catastrophe, although luckily for Millwall, our young pride of Lionesses did not let this affect them.
The game kicked off nearly an hour later than scheduled due to the late arrival of some of the Oxford squad, but the delayed kick-off did not affect the home side. The fixture started at a high tempo and Gabby Ravenscroft in particular impressed up front in the opening minutes. It was as early as the 7th minute when the home fans thought that the deadlock would be broken. A lovely weighted pass was flicked over the top and Ravenscroft was away from the back line with the ball at her feet. Unfortunately for the young forward, the linesman had raised his flag and the tightest of offsides was given when she was through on goal.
Another youngster who was showing plenty of maturity was Annie Rossiter on the right wing. Rossiter was a constant menace to the Oxford defence and in the 9th minute she left the United full-back for dead and put in a lovely low driven cross into the six-yard box. Ravenscroft was the first to it but somehow put it wide! A huge let off for the away side who were lucky they were not 1-0 down in the opening 10 minutes.
Not to be disheartened by this missed chance, Rossiter again showed her skill and pace a minute later. Appearing to go down the right wing again, the winger dropped her shoulder and sold a dummy to the Oxford full-back before cutting inside to have a shot from distance with her left foot. The shot was powerful, but straight into the hands of the Oxford 'keeper who gathered with ease.
The Lionesses did not need to wait long to get the goal they deserved from all their hard work. A beautiful through ball was played through to Ravenscroft after a lovely run from Lia Cataldo and the young forward made no mistake from close range. There was only one winner in this one-on-one and the visiting goalkeeper was helpless as she watched the ball roll into the back of the net.
Oxford were slowly getting into the game and tried to attack down the right wing but Leanne Cowan, who was once again given the captain's armband, was in fine form at left-back. Nullifying every move that built up down the flank, Cowan defended superbly and cut out every attack as it was building.
Due to the delayed kick-off, it was decided that the game would only have two official halves of 30 minutes, so on the half hour mark the whistle went to signify half-time. The score was 1-0 and the Lionesses were by far the better side.
The second half continued in the same way as the first, with the Lionesses on the front foot. Picking up the ball in the middle of the park in the 31st minute, Lia Cataldo burst into the Oxford penalty area. The fans were screaming for her to shoot, but Cataldo unselfishly saw a team mate in a better position and squared the ball. Unfortunately for the Lionesses, an Oxford defender just got there in time as the trigger was about the be pulled and managed to get the ball away.
Oxford had a chance of their own in the 37th minute. A long and hard effort was drilled towards the Lioness goal but substitute goalkeeper, Grace Taylor, expertly palmed the ball away from danger with a great save.
Ravenscroft again continued to be a headache for the Oxford back-line. A ball was played through to the young forward in the 42nd minute but the visiting 'keeper had read this well and just beat the Lioness to the ball. Again in the 45th minute Ravenscroft was played through, but the pass was just too heavy and was scooped up by the Oxford number one.
The Lionesses were playing some great football, but their inability to find that killer instinct in the final third proved to be their undoing. In the 47th minute a long range effort just flew wide of Taylor's post, before Oxford got their equaliser a minute later. A long cross came in to the far post and it was a United player who was first to it and her header from close range drew the game level. There was plenty of backwards and forwards action in the rest of the game where both sides could've capitalised on defensive errors, but on the 60 minute mark the final whistle blew and the game ended 1-1.
This was another very mature display from the Lionesses who for the majority of the game played some wonderful football. Questions will be asked where the killer instinct from the Enfield game had gone, but Oxford did defend very well and Ravenscroft was superb up front for the South London side. This was another friendly with huge positives to take going into the new season.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
An outstanding display from the young winger who was a constant threat throughout the game. Pin point accuracy with her passing and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet.