FORMER Oxford United Women goalkeeper Lucy Thomas was on the bench after being named in the England squad for the first time.

The 24-year-old, who has previously represented the Lionesses at Under-23 level, emerged through United’s Regional Talent Centre and academy into the first team aged 16.

From there, Thomas moved to Arsenal as their third choice keeper, before rejoining the U’s.

Further moves to London City Lionesses and Coventry United followed, before signing for current club Birmingham City.

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Thomas was initially named as a standby player in the England squad, but following a minor hip injury to Manchester United’s Mary Earps, she was called up for the Lionesses’ Euro 2025 qualifier against France.

Sarina Wiegman’s side boosted their chances of qualification with a 2-1 victory in Saint-Etienne, thanks to goals from Georgia Stanway and Alessia Russo.

The Lionesses remain third in group A3, but prevented themselves from falling further behind after Sweden maintained their grip on second with a 1-0 victory against the Republic of Ireland.

Stanway’s stunning strike put England ahead after 21 minutes, before Russo doubled the lead when she headed home Lauren Hemp’s cross.

Kadidiatou Diani halved the deficit with a second half penalty, in her 100th appearance for Les Bleues, but England held on.

With the top sides in the group booking an automatic ticket to the Euros, England are two points behind leaders France and level on points with Sweden, who have a superior goal difference. All the teams have two group stage games remaining.

Oxford Mail:

England began the qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Sweden, followed by a 2-0 win over Ireland, before losing 2-1 at home to France on Friday night.

After the win against France last night, Russo told ITV: “We just spoke as a team that our standards have to be higher. We probably let them slip a little bit in these past few qualifiers, but we know the talent we have, we know the potential that we have as a group and we saw a lot more flashes of it.

“I think we got our standards back to where we wanted them. There were still parts that we’ll work on, for sure, but that’s a performance that we want to keep going forward now.

“We know that the level is higher than ever, and we know that to do anything at the Euros, to even qualify, it’s going to be harder than ever.

“We’re proud, we’ll have a little bit of a rest and then we’re back in July for another massive camp.”

Wiegman added: “You want to win, and we have a better position now. The group is totally open.

“We said from the beginning, this is a really tough group with top-level teams, and this is exactly what you see. It helps when you win, and most of all we did better than Friday.

“The first half, I think that’s one of our best halves we’ve ever played.”