Oxford United finally get their season underway when they welcome fellow Southern Premier side, and last season’s FAWNL Cup finalists, Crawley Wasps, to Court Place Farm this Sunday in the FAWNL Cup.
After an opening weekend of contrasting emotions – Wasps experienced the elation of winning their first fixture after gaining promotion, while Oxford had to manage the disappointment of a late postponement – the two sides meet in a repeat of last season’s FAWNL Cup competition, and although much has changed for both participants, it is expected to be another closely contested fixture.
The U’s enjoyed a near-perfect pre-season, drawing with London Bees before beating Southampton Women’s FC, Wolves, Abingdon United, and Championship side, Lewes. Goals and positives aplenty, preparations have been a stark contrast to the turbulent pre-season the club experienced a year ago, with Liam Gilbert’s side set to begin the season in a very good place as a club.
Bolstered by the re-signing of last season’s Southern Premier Golden Boot winner, Emily Allen, who is available for selection at the weekend, Oxford have recruited very well during the close season, bringing in Ellie Kirby, Georgia Clifford, Ellie Searle, Brogan Moore, Daisy McLachlan, and Aimee Watson, while Kayleigh Hines returns from a long-term injury, and U16s standout, Carly Johns, makes the step up to the senior squad.
Oxford have experienced a few departures, the most notable being Ellie Noble (Lewes), Lucy Thomas and Flo Fyfe (both London City Lionesses) but overall, the squad is much stronger than at the same time last season, with genuine competition for places across the pitch.
Having been forced to wait an additional week, Oxford will be keen to avenge the loss, and more importantly, start the 2019/20 campaign off strongly.
After a successful promotion campaign that saw Crawley reach the final of the FAWNL Cup and win the league by an impressive 11 points, the West Sussex based side have managed to maintain the momentum that carried them through last season, beating several teams during pre-season, including Championship side London Bees, though their most important victory to date came last weekend, at the expense of Plymouth. A positive introduction to life in the Southern Premier Division.
Paul Walker was understandably busy during the summer as he prepared for life in Tier 3, making a number of signings including winger Tash Stephens, Maria Ledezma-Viso, Sam Pittuck, Hope Nash, Charlotte Owen, Rebecca Carter, and ex-Northern Ireland defender Alex Newman, who returned to football after 3 years out due to injury.
As expected, there was also a number of departures with Amy Green, Millie Carter, Abbie Measures, Amy Woollard, and long-serving Suzanne Davies departing the club.
Wasps travel to Oxfordshire hoping to build on a good result last weekend while knowing a victory against league contenders Oxford United would make a real statement.
Several narratives could be applied to this game: a rematch of last season, a head-to-head of two sides likely to be fighting for the very top places in the division, an early litmus test of sorts, but above all else, it should be a footballing spectacle between to very good teams.
The winners progress to the next round, while the losers are entered into the FAWNL Plate competition.