Friday 19 May 2017

Match PREVIEW - OUWFC vs Donny Belles

Oxford United Women face Doncaster Belles in their final match of the Spring Series this Sunday at Northcourt Road.

The Yellows play the recently relegated Belles looking for a positive end to a transition season. New manager Andy Cook started only two months ago, yet the performances from the team have vastly improving. Having pushed the first and second place team in WSL2 to close finishes, the home team will be looking for similar positivity against the third placed side.

Doncaster come into the game having won four, drawn three and lost one, their previous result being a 2-1 victory against Aston Villa. Striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk will pose the biggest threat, having scored 10 goals this season.

Manager Cook was very complimentary when talking about his young team, “We’ve made progress since the start of the spring series. It has been tough, but as a group we have remained focused and will continue to work on how we want to play. I am proud of the way we have played in each game, giving starts to youth players and allowing the team to grow over time. This team is in a much better place than when I started 2 months ago and it’s only going to get better. On Sunday we end with the toughest game of the Spring Series against Doncaster, last season losing out and being relegated from WSL1 was tough for them and they want to prove they are capable of going straight back up. We are ready for the game, the team are focused and hopefully it will make for a great game.”

Midfielder Lauren Haynes was voted in as captain at the start of the season and has played a huge part in how the squad has developed. She shares the same pride as her Manager when talking about her teammates. “I'm extremely proud of the team and as a group how well we’ve all got on this season. We have an extremely young squad (average age of 19) and have all been able to get WSL minutes under our belt in preparation for the September season. We have been able to give players a chance from the u20's and for them to get a taster of WSL life. The future looks bright for Oxford United, we have a new coaching staff in place and they have had a huge impact on the standards we hold ourselves to here. It would be unrealistic to say that things were just going to change with a click of a finger from last season. We knew that we had to think long term and make sure we do the right things now, in order to prep for September.”

Andy is expecting a tough battle against the experienced opponents, but is confident in the fight his team have shown so far this season. “They will be expecting to dominate possession, create chances and score goals. It comes down to 1v1s, if we can win the majority of those on the pitch we will win the game. We could have the right plan and the right tactics for this game, but if we don't win the battles and overcome our direct opponent we will lose. It comes down to who wants it more.”

While Captain Haynes has missed out on the last two games with injury she’s had to make to with watching from the side lines. But she’s raring to go for Sunday’s match, “it's been frustrating to watch from the side lines over the last couple of games due to injury but I am absolutely buzzing to be able to get back out there and lead the side again. We know Donny are an experienced team with some top players, but with all the preparation we have done over the last 3 weeks for this game, there’s no reason we can’t put in a strong showing against them. We have put in some terrific performances but unfortunately results haven't gone our way this year, but we would love to finish the season with a win!”

The Spring Series has been a good opportunity for Andy to expose his mind-set and tactics to the players, which will serve the team well come the Winter Season. The Manager is understanding of the long-term goal and the team can work on things moving forwards. “Well a win and three points in this final game would be a perfect way to round off the Spring Series. We already have the post-season and pre-season planned, so we are ready to start now. It’s just giving the players time to rest and relax to come back as fresh as possible. The team all know what I expect, standards have been raised and they need to meet them. The club’s evolving and the players are seeing what - through a little bit of hard work, a lot of quality and some character - they can achieve here. Oxford has been working towards this point since January we used all these games to assess and educate the players we have, in preparation for next season.”

Lauren echoes these sentiments and although she understands the journey will be tough, she’s excited to see how this team can develop. “It's been a big learning curve for me this year. First of all, being voted in as captain at the start was a huge honour and then leading the girls out every game is something I'm hugely proud to do. It has been a tough year in terms of results, but performance-wise we have grown and grown and there is no doubt if we continue doing what we are doing, the results will come and we will be ready for next September.”

Oxford United Women play Doncaster Belles on Sunday 21st May at Northcourt Road, Abingdon. Kickoff is at 14:00 and you can follow the minute-by-minute live on Twitter: @officialouwfc

Tickets for the game can be bought here: