REPORT & GALLERY: Chichester City 1 Crawley Wasps 1 (Wasps win 4-3 on penalties)

Wasps players and staff celebrate with the trophy, drowned in champagne and confetti (Picture: Alan Sillwood-Brown)

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.

GALLERY: More pictures from our historic Sussex FA Women’s Challenge Cup win will appear here soon.

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.

NEWS: Yeovil match postponed

Regretfully, this Sunday’s FA Women’s National League game against Yeovil Town has been postponed.

The pitch at East Court has standing water in some areas after rain overnight and with more due, courtesy of Storm Ciara, it’s highly unlikely to be playable.

We have taken Yeovil’s travelling into account in making an early decision on the postponement.

A rearranged date will be announced in due course.

REPORT: Hounslow 0 Crawley Wasps 5

Hat-trick hero Sian Heather in action at Hounslow (Picture: Alan Sillwood-Brown)

Sian Heather scored a hat-trick – her first goals since becoming a mother – as Crawley Wasps cruised to a 5-0 win at struggling Hounslow on Sunday.

Charlotte Owen and Kemina Webber also found the target in Wasps’ biggest victory since September, which keeps them top of the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division.

Hounslow, formerly QPR, were winless this season, scoring just three goals and conceding 62 in 11 matches, prior to taking on Paul Walker’s side.

And while the hosts threatened occasionally on the break, Wasps were in control from the moment Heather – whose last goal came in January 2019 – tapped in Megan Stow’s 12th-minute cross.

Sam Pittuck saw a shot blocked by the keeper, Ellie Russell hit the bar with a header and Stow fired across goal but Wasps were restricted to the single goal before half time.

GALLERY: More of Alan Sillwood-Brown’s photos from the game will appear here soon

After the break, though, Wasps were more dominant. Owen converted Tash Stephens cross five minutes into the second half and substitute Webber finished from Rachel Palmer’s corner for 3-0.

Heather then showed her poacher’s instinct to net twice more from close range, first after Webber’s sliced shot fell to her and then after Emma Plewa had been denided by the keeper.

With Watford not in action, Wasps are now six points clear at the top but having played two games more than the Hornets.

Wasps: Gibbs; Russell, James, Palmer (Rodrigues Anes 73); Nash, Stow, Fleischman, Owen, Stephens (Plewa 62); Pittuck (Webber 55), Heather. Subs not used: Graves, Ledezma-Viso.

NEWS: Wasps boost with SportShield deal

Crawley Wasps fans can help their favourite club earn money under an exciting new deal announced today with insurance firm SportShield.

The company, soon to be Brighton-based, have agreed to become Wasps’ first official insurance partner.

As part of the agreement, every policy taken out with SportShield that mentions Wasps will earn cashback for the club.

This includes life insurance, serious Illness insurance, income protection, personal accident insurance, personal Insurance, commercial insurance, energy solutions, foreign exchange and all sports insurance.

SportShield are also becoming part of Wasps’ family of sponsors and will launch their support for the club by sponsoring the home match against Yeovil Town on Sunday February 9.

James Laraman, Wasps’ commercial manager, said: “SportShield will be able to offer tailored insurance products to those involved with the club, our sponsors and friends and families.

“Any policies taken out will provide us with a revenue stream, enabling us to continue to grow the most successful women’s football club in the local area.”

Michael Dorrington, SportShield’s regional director, added: “We are delighted to become the official insurance partner for Crawley Wasps.

“It’s a club we are very proud to be associated with as we share the same determination and passion to succeed further. We hope this partnership will provide the club with the support it needs to push up the divisions.”

Wasps currently sit top of the FA Women’s National League South, the third tier of women’s football, three points clear of Watford. They also have two other senior teams further down the pyramid, and six youth teams from Under-14s to Under-9s.

For more on SportShield, visit www.sportshield.co.uk.

REPORT & GALLERY: Crawley Wasps 2 Cardiff City 0

Wasps players celebrate the opening goal with scorer Megan Stow (second left). Picture: Ben Davidson Photography.

Megan Stow’s fine first-minute strike inspired Crawley Wasps to an impressive 2-0 victory over Cardiff City on Sunday.

Fellow midfielder Naomi Cole grabbed the second from the penalty spot as Wasps returned to the top of the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division.

They are now three points clear of Watford, who have a game in hand after they were in Women’s FA Cup action at the weekend.

Paul Walker’s team have now won 44 of their last 50 league games, dating back to the beginning of the 2017-18 season.

Stow got the afternoon off to the perfect start when she latched on to a weak defensive header and drilled a first-time shot low into the corner from 25 yards.

GALLERY: For more of Ben Davidson’s photos from the game, CLICK HERE

Wasps had further half chances in the first half, with Rachel Palmer, Charlotte Owen, Stow and Sam Pittuck looking particularly lively.

Cardiff were also a threat on the break, though Wasps’ Darcey James was excellent at the back and keeper Frankie Gibbs gathered in a shot from the edge of the box.

Stow nodded wide from a corner soon after half time, Pittuck drilled inches past the far post and sub Ariana Fleischman had an effort saved as Wasps continued to press.

They got breathing space when player of the match Tash Stephens was adjudged to have been fouled in the box, and Cole netted the penalty.

Wasps were also able to introduce new signing Stephanie Rodrigues Anes late on as they saw out the victory.

We travel to second-from-bottom Hounslow this Sunday (2pm).

Wasps: Gibbs; Russell, James, Palmer; Ledezma-Viso (Nash 55), Stow (Rodrigues Anes 81), Cole, Owen, Stephens; Pittuck, Heather (Fleischman 60). Subs not used: Graves, Webber.

NEWS: Defender Stephanie joins Wasps’ ranks

Stephanie Rodrigues Anes in action for QPR Picture: Ian Randall Photography)

Crawley Wasps have added Stephanie Rodrigues Anes to their squad ahead of Sunday’s game with Cardiff City.

The defender, 26, joins us after leaving our divisional rivals Hounslow. She had been with them since January 2018, when they were QPR.

Prior to that, Stephanie had spells with Fulham, Chelsea’s reserves and Luton Town.

She has also studied and played at Auburn University at Montgomery, in the USA.

Stephanie has been given squad number 24.

REPORT: Brighton Academy 0 Crawley Wasps 2

Sam Pittuck, seen here playing against Plymouth, got Wasps’ opening goal against Brighton (Picture: Alan Sillwood-Brown)

Crawley Wasps manager Paul Walker is targeting another shot at silverware next month after his side booked a place in the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup final.

Goals from Sam Pittuck and Naomi Cole gave Wasps a 2-0 win in the semi-final over Brighton & Hove Albion Academy on Sunday.

They will face either divisional rivals Chichester or Lewes’s Development Squad on February 20, in what will be Wasps’ fourth County Cup final in five seasons.

And after losing all three of their previous finals, twice to Brighton and once to Lewes, Walker is keen to make amends.

He said: “It’s great to get to finals but it’s quite tough watching the opposition picking up medals and the trophy, so let’s hope this time around – with the quality we have – it’s going to be us.”

Against Albion’s youngsters, Charlotte Owen was denied an opener by a fine save but Pittuck broke the deadlock on 20 minutes when she converted Maria Ledezma-Viso’s teasing ball in.

Wasps were almost undone just before the break when a Brighton free-kick came back off the bar.

But they extended their lead 12 minutes into the second half when Kemina Webber had her ankles tapped in the box and Cole converted the penalty.

We return to league action on Sunday when we host Cardiff City at East Grinstead Town’s East Court stadium (2pm kick off).

Wasps: Gibbs; Russell, James, Palmer; Ledezma-Viso, Owen, Cole, Stow, Stephens; Pittuck, Webber. Subs: Graves, Nash, Fleischman.

REPORT: Plymouth Argyle 0 Crawley Wasps 1

Wasps’ goalscorer Rachel Palmer on the ball at Plymouth (Picture: Ben Davidson Photography)

Crawley Wasps returned to action on Sunday with an excellent 1-0 win at Plymouth as they moved level on points with Watford at the top of the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division.

Left-back Rachel Palmer’s well struck goal from outside the box 10 minutes from time secured Wasps an impressive victory on the road at third-placed Argyle.

Palmer and Sian Heather both sent early chances wide while Helen Bleazard sent Plymouth’s best chance of the first half just over.

Soon after the break, Wasps’ Charlotte Owen was denied by a fine save and Bleazard remained the hosts’ biggest threat.

With time running out, Palmer struck her fourth goal of a productive season and the points were secured by keeper Frankie Gibbs’ save from Tash Knapman.

This Sunday, Wasps will hope to book a place in the Sussex FA Women’s County Cup final as they host Brighton & Hove Albion’s Development Squad.

Wasps: Gibbs; Russell, James, Palmer; Ledezma-Viso, Cole, Stow (Simmons 69), Stephens (Webber 89); Pittuck, Heather. Subs not used: Graves, Newman.

REPORT & GALLERY: Crawley Wasps 3 Portsmouth 1

Emma Plewa celebrates her second goal – and Wasps third – against Portsmouth Picture: Ben Davidson Photography)

The returning Emma Plewa inspired Crawley Wasps to a 3-1 victory over Portsmouth on Sunday, which put them back on top of the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division.

Former Wales international Plewa set up the opening goal and then scored twice herself on her first league appearance since April.

A hard-fought game, played on a heavy pitch at East Grinstead Town FC, kept a season’s-best crowd of 235 thoroughly entertained.

Visitors Portsmouth, whose boss Jay Sadler won October’s manager of the month award, started brightly with Jade Bradley forcing Wasps keeper Frankie Gibbs into a fine early save.

But against the run of play, Paul Walker’s side took the lead on 17 minutes. Plewa delivered from the left and fellow winger Tash Stephens converted from close range against her former club.

GALLERY: For more of Ben Davidson’s pictures from the Gillingham game, CLICK HERE

Wasps skipper Naomi Cole then drove narrowly past the angle of post and bar, but Pompey equalised when Gibbs tipped Tamsin De Bunsen’s shot on to the bar and Jade Widdows netted the rebound.

However, Wasps went back in front moments later as Charlotte Young’s ball sent Plewa clear and she coolly slotted low into the far corner.

Pompey then went down to 10 men after Katie James was sent off for an attempted kick out.

But despite their staff-shortage, the visitors kept the second half very competitive, although clear-cut chances were at a premium.

Widdows and Wasps’ Sam Pittuck went close at either end before Plewa wrapped things up on 77 minutes with another run and clinical finish.

Wasps: Gibbs; Nash, Russell, James, Palmer; Young, Cole; Stephens (Ledezma-Viso 71), Stow (Drury 71), Plewa; Pittuck (Carter 82). Subs not used: Graves, Owen.