Sawbuck's side victorious against Oxford
Millwall Lionesses began their WSL 2 season in style with a thrilling 5-3 victory over Oxford United Women at Northcourt Road on Thursday night.
Rebecca Sawbuck's side battled not just tough opposition, but also Bank Holiday traffic around London, only arriving at the ground 35 minutes before a late 8.50pm kick-off.
Predictably the home side started with intensity and defender Billie Brooks was forced to clear off the line inside the first minute, but the away side quickly scored the opening goal as Leigh Nicol's pass over the top of the defence was lobbed in by Ashlee Hincks.
The lead was short lived, though, with Oxford's Lauren Allison hooking a top-drawer effort past Sarah Quantrill.
Hincks, impressive throughout, set Lucy Loomes free moments after the home side's equaliser, but the England U19 international saw her effort beat both Demi Lambourne and the post.
Quantrill also had to have her wits about her at the other end, pulling off an excellent save from Jess Frampton's thunderous free-kick.
The Lionesses went into half-time with a crucial lead, however, with Fliss Gibbons releasing Loomes, whose clever chip over Frampton was cleared, but the forward picked up the loose ball and slotted home.
It was Loomes who then extended the lead early on in the second-half, latching on to a pass from Hincks before dinking over Lambourne.
While that was a superb finish, the best was yet to come as Hincks shifted the ball to her right before smashing a 20-yard shot over Lambourne - an early goal of the season contender - to stretch her side's advantage.
Oxford bounced straight back, though, as Ini Umotong looped a header over Quantrill before they reduced the deficit further with Laura Nichol bundling home from close range.
But the Lionesses sealed an impressive victory with a fifth goal in the dying moments. Hincks delivered a free-kick from the right flank which put Lambourne under pressure and as she spilled the ball, sub Rinsola Banajide stuck out a leg and knocked it over the line.
Hincks almost grabbed her hat-trick at the death but her low effort was well saved. The striker was still buzzing after the final whistle and paid tribute to her team-mates and coaches:
"We've worked so hard on fitness this year and I think it showed in that game. Everyone looked sharp," she said.
"The most important thing was to get three points, especially in this weather. It was always going to be a scrap but I think we deserved it."
Manager Sawiuk was delighted for her two-goal striker: "I'm really happy for Ashlee; it's been a long time coming for her. She's scored two brilliant goals tonight, but more than that her whole performance was fantastic."
Lionesses: Quantrill, Brooks, Robe, Cole, Gaylor (Strugnell, 46'), Wynne, Carlton, Gibbons, Nicol (Maple, 45'), Loomes (Babajide, 75'), Hincks. Subs not used: Iverson, Sherwood, Cowan, Mallett
Millwall Lionesses now turn their attention to a first home game of the season against Everton Ladies this Sunday 27th March, which takes place at Dartford FC's Princes Park ground (kick-off 2pm). Tickets are just £5 for adults and £2 for junior U16s and senior over 60s, and will be available on the day.
Lions fans are encouraged to come along and watch Sawiuk's side in action. Details of how to get to Princes Park are available by clicking here
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