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Oxford City Women: A Stronger League Finish than Start

Oxford City Women’s First Team have had an incredible second half to the season in both league and cup successes, a comparative difference to how they started the season back in September. 

It took them 5 games in the league to find winning ways, with a total of 12 goals conceded in their first 4 league games of the season. 

Although early in the campaign, it looked as though City were destined for a bottom-half-of-the-table finish. With a total of 2 points after 4 games, City sat in 8th place, level on points with Warminster Town who sat last on goal difference. 

League Table as of the 2nd October 2023

City have, since then, turned their fortunes around. They have not lost a league game this year, with their last loss being a 6 - 2 defeat inflicted by Ascot United in mid-December. Since then, 16 goals in 4 league games and a cup final on the horizon demonstrates the development of the team over the last 7 months. 

So if the squad started and will go on to end the season with the same set of players, and the same goals, then why is this season a story of two halves? 

At the beginning of the season, the women’s first and development teams went through two major changes. 

The first was holding trials during pre-season, which consisted of both new and old players, to ensure that individuals were put into the correct squad for their ability and development going forward, as well as bringing in new talent. 

It has to be considered that bringing several new players into a side changes the dynamic of the squad, with sports psychologist Bruce Tuckman believing that there are several stages that a team will go through before reaching an optimum performance.

The main idea of this is that when a new group of people comes together, there may be a clash in ideas and a competition for roles/ positions that has to be resolved before they can play as a team.

This might have been a factor, heightened by the fact that much of pre-season was taken up by the trialling process meaning the respective teams had less time to bond and resolve any conflicts that may have occurred. 

The second major change that both women’s teams went through was a change in management. New ideas and managerial styles coming into City would have also taken time to adapt to, meaning that at the start of the season, the club was still getting used to a new dynamic. 

It is expected that after a manager takes over a side, there is a period where performance doesn’t make any major improvements, and you cannot expect change straight away. 

Sir Alex Ferguson took over 6 years to win a league title as manager of Manchester United, but he went on to win 38 trophies in charge of the club, demonstrating how huge change doesn't have to be immediate. 

Therefore, we cannot make any assumptions about the future success of management based on the first couple of months in charge, and to support this a current high standard of play from Walton’s side demonstrates that the squad have settled into new ideas and have found a way to play to everyone’s strengths, and they look set to finish 3rd this season.

Despite the strength in the squad, City are looking to develop their sides further with trials again this summer. 

This could, arguably, stump the progress made as a conflict stage is possible if new players are brought into the side. However, trials are being held earlier this year, with the sessions due to take place in May/June, meaning that a full pre-season will be available to get back into the optimum performance stage. 

This in turn means that one of City’s goals for next season, with a strong finish this campaign and a summer to develop the squad, will be promotion. 

It’s a big goal for the club, but one that doesn’t seem a long way off after the second half of this campaign, and with the current squad’s ability and the time to develop this further, City have a strong chance at achieving this goal next season. 

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