Crawley Wasps lifted the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup for the first time in their history as they beat Chichester City 4-3 on penalties in a tense final at Lancing on Thursday.
Captain Naomi Cole tucked away the deciding spot-kick to spark celebrations after goalkeeper Frankie Gibbs had made a crucial save in the shoot-out.
Earlier, Ellie Russell’s bullet header had given Wasps a half-time lead, which could have been greater – Cole’s long-range shot cannoned off the bar, Rachel Palmer was denied by a fine save and Russell nodded against the post.
But cup holders Chi, who had been restricted to speculative long-range efforts, levelled early in the second half when Megan Fox’s shot was parried by Wasps keeper Frankie Gibbs and Rebecca Bell slid in to convert.
Wasps almost went back in front immediately but Emma Plewa’s shot was too close to impressive Chi keeper Issy Foster. At the other end, Gibbs leapt to her right to brilliantly save from Fox’s volley.
Wasps put Chi on the back foot in extra time, with Foster pushing away Cole’s firmly struck shot and denying Sam Pittuck, while Plewa and Kemina Webber both fired narrowly wide of the post.
It meant the trophy would be decided on penalties, the first shoot-out Wasps have been involved in since a Women’s FA Cup second-round defeat way back in January 2012.
Chi took first and Priscilla Martins scored, but Russell – the goalscorer in normal time and arguably Wasps’ best player over the 120 minutes – sliced wide in response.
However, the scores were then levelled up when Chi’s Jess Burke hit the post and Wasps’ Sian Heather sent Fisher the wrong way.
Gibbs then saved from Sharna Capel-Watson to give Wasps the advantage, strengthened further when Emma Plewa made it 2-1 after three kicks.
Bell and Fox then netted for Chi, but vice-captain Rachel Palmer converted to set up her skipper Cole for the trophy-clinching moment.
Wasps: Gibbs; Russell, James, Palmer; Nash, Owen, Cole, Stow, Stephens; Pittuck, Heather. Subs (rolling): Plewa, Webber, Ledezma-Viso, Fleischman. Unused: Graves.