TRANSFER: Wasps sign midfielder James from Lewes

Crawley Wasps have signed midfielder Darcey James from Sussex neighbours Lewes FC Women.

James has made 18 appearances in the FA Women’s Premier League this season and further strengthens a Wasps squad currently on track to become champions of the London & South East Premier Division.

She had joined the Rookettes last summer after playing in the US college system, and has also played professionally in Iceland.

Wasps manager Paul Walker said James’ arrival, coming so soon after the signings of ex-Lewes defender Rachel Palmer and former Brighton goalkeeper Leah Samain, was a further endorsement of the club’s growing reputation.

He added: “I consider this another important signing to a squad I believe will be capable of mounting a challenge in the new FA Women’s National League South East, as the division above will be called next season.

“Darcy fits the bill in terms of the quality of player we are seeking to sign in order to create a sub-elite level ladies side for Crawley, which is what we will have for the first time on securing promotion.

“I am very grateful to Lewes FC Women and my opposite number John Donoghue for releasing Darcey from her contract in time for her to be signed by us before the close of the transfer window.

“It is a clear example of Lewes putting a player’s interest before their own.”

James will feature in the squad for Wasps’ league game against Watford LFC Development on Sunday, which has been switched to Steyning Town’s 3G facility (2.30pm kick-off).

MATCH REPORT: Crawley Wasps U16s 3 Eastbourne Girls 4

Wasps U16s skipper Chanelle Gainsford drives on from midfield (Picture: Simon Roe –

Crawley Wasps’ Under-16s were edged out 4-3 by Eastbourne in a thrilling Sussex Girls Challenge Cup final at Culver Road, Lancing on Sunday evening.

Chloe Bosher scored the pick of the seven goals – rifling in a terrific shot from 30 yards – but Eastbourne snatched it five minutes from time after an action-packed game.

It was only the team’s second defeat in 67 matches against female opposition from Sussex, a run stretching back to their days as Under-11s.

They fell behind after nine minutes as Megan Cranford struck but skipper Chanelle Gainsford levelled soon afterwards, slotting in from a tight angle after Eastbourne keeper Amber Pisani-Clelland had saved her first effort.

Eastbourne restored their lead midway through the first half, Becky Simmonds converting a cross from the left, but Wasps hit back again a minute before the break as Emily Flegg pounced on a loose ball inside the box.

On 54 minutes came Bosher’s moment of brilliance which gave Wasps the lead for the first time. Collecting a ball from Ellie Livingstone, she unleashed a dipping effort from distance which flew over Pisani-Clelland.

However Eastbourne levelled just four minutes later, Simmonds latching on to a through ball before a composed finish.

And the same player broke Wasps’ hearts late on, completing her hat-trick to seal the trophy.

In both halves, Wasps’ keeper Lauren Graves – who experienced Ladies first-team football in a friendly with Reading earlier this year – bravely smothered at strikers’ feet, while the hard-working Gainsford and influential Livingstone were stand-out performers.

Manager Mark Graves said: “The girls gave it absolutely everything. They walked off with heads held high. It was a great game of football played by two good teams.”

Wasps U16s: Graves; Tilford-Carey, Watts, Upton, Mullan; Nicholls, Gainsford, Livingstone, Sullivan; Bosher; Flegg. Subs: Hughes, Delaney, Sinden.

GALLERY: For more pictures from the Sussex Girls Challenge Cup final, click here >>

MATCH REPORT: Crawley Wasps 3 Parkwood Rangers 0

Naomi Cole (l) and Faye Rabson were both on target

Crawley Wasps’ outstanding season continued on Sunday as they reached the final of the London & South East Regional League Cup for the second year in a row.

Their 3-0 win over a resilient Parkwood Rangers earned them a place in the showpiece against AFC Phoenix, at Maidstone United’s Gallagher Stadium, on May 20.

Paul Walker’s side are unbeaten this season – 17 matches in all competitions – and have a Sussex Challenge Cup final against Lewes and possible promotion to the FA Women’s Premier League to look forward to.

Against Parkwood – fourth in the division – they dominated large spells but lacked a killer touch in front of goal, despite Ariana Fleischman, Faye Rabson and Naomi Cole all testing the keeper.

They almost paid for their profligacy as a defensive slip allowed Parkwood a chance, but keeper Frankie Gibbs made an excellent block.

Wasps broke through in first-half injury-time when Toni Smith got nudged over in the box and Cole despatched the penalty.

Kemina Webber hit the woodwork with a header after the break but made amends by nodding home Cole’s expert delivery to double the lead on 70 minutes.

And Wasps put the game beyond the visitors’ reach as Webber laid the ball off for Rabson to drill home.

They return to league action this weekend, as Watford LFC Development visit Tinsley Lane, Oakwood (2pm kick-off). A win would put them closer to achieving their title ambitions.

Wasps: Gibbs; Duncan, Niamh Stephenson, Carter, Ward; Drury, Cole; Rabson, Fleischman, Callaghan; T. Smith. Subs: Elphick, N. Smith, C. O’Hagan, Webber.

Wasps’ reserves were beaten 3-2 by Worthing in the semi-finals of the South East Counties League Cup. Amy Clark and Natalie Stephenson scored.

MATCH REPORT: Crawley Wasps v Rustington Raiders double-header

Topaz Luxford and Abi Knight were the stars of the show in front of goal as Crawley Wasps Development took four points from a double header with Rustington Raiders on Sunday.

The games in the Sussex Women’s League were switched at the last minute to Wasps’ home ground at Ewhurst Playing Fields.

The Development Squad – effectively the Ladies third team – were created after last season’s Under-16s came of age. They won their first two games, but lost the next 10 prior to meeting Rustington.

Luxford put Mark Barker’s team ahead and although the visitors levelled before half-time, Knight restored Wasps’ advantage in the second half.

Millie Baverstock made it 3-1 before Knight grabbed her second to complete the team’s most convincing win since their debut match in September.

The second game started slowly and was goalless at the break, but Luxford broke the deadlock in the second half.

Wasps were again heading for maximum points until Rustington struck late on to claim a draw. Knight and Baverstock were named as the Thales players of the match in each game.

Meanwhile, Wasps first team put in a creditable performance in a friendly against FA Women’s Premier League side West Ham, despite a 3-0 defeat.

The Hammers held a 1-0 lead at the break and Wasps keeper Frankie Gibbs made several good saves to keep the score down, until the hosts scored twice late on.

And a reminder, Wasps Under-16s play Eastbourne Girls in the Sussex Cup final this Sunday (March 4), at Culver Road, Lancing. Kick off is 7.15pm.

They will be hoping to continue their remarkable record against Sussex girls’ opposition, which has seen them lose just one of their last 66 matches, dating back to their time as Under-11s.

A full preview will appear on our website later this week.

SIGNING: Wasps add ex-Albion keeper Samain to squad

Crawley Wasps have signed former Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Leah Samain.

The 21-year-old joins on dual registration from Worthing Ladies, as back-up to regular first-team keeper Frankie Gibbs.

She left Brighton last summer and was briefly with Lewes, before switching to hometown club Worthing to enable her to focus on her coaching role with Albion in the Community (AITC).

“I’m delighted to have joined an up-and-coming squad”, said Samain.

“With the dual-signing, I get the best of both worlds – full-time coaching with Brighton and hopefully playing at a good level for as long as possible.”
Wasps manager Paul Walker added: “This dual-signing gives us another very capable keeper to provide back-up to Frankie.

“Leah is proven at a higher level and for us it’s another quality signing. I am delighted that she has chosen to join us.”

Samain played against Wasps for Brighton in last season’s Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup final, making superb saves to deny Naomi Cole and Rosanne Fine as Albion won 5-1.

She will, however, be ineligible for this year’s showpiece, when Wasps face Lewes on March 22, having played for Worthing earlier in the competition.

Leah shakes on the deal with first-team boss Paul Walker at Cottesmore Hotel, Golf & Country Club, where Wasps players do weekly strength & conditioning sessions

FA Charter Standard boost for Wasps

Crawley Wasps LFC have had their FA Charter Standard status renewed for 2018.

The honour is awarded to football clubs who demonstrate best practice in standards of coaching, administration and child safeguarding.

Wasps were first given Charter Standard status in 2011 and have successfully passed annual ‘health checks’ to have it renewed.

The criteria include having an FA-trained club welfare officer, an FA level one coach for each youth team, ensuring DBS (formerly CRB) checks for all volunteers involved in youth teams, FA emergency aid-trained volunteers for each team and delivery of the FA’s Respect programme.

Wasps’ Charter Standard status has been managed by Dawn Keegan, the club’s welfare officer, and club secretary Karen Beckett.

“We’re delighted to have had our Charter Standard status renewed,” said Karen. “It is something we are very proud of at Wasps.

“It demonstrates to our players and their relatives that the club continues to adhere to the very highest of welfare standards, on and off the pitch.”

MATCH REPORT: Eastbourne Ladies 0 Crawley Wasps 2

Wasps’ Toni Smith evades an Eastbourne challenge (Picture: Andrew Hazelden)

Crawley Wasps booked their place in the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup final for the third year in a row – but were made to work hard for a 2-0 victory over Eastbourne Ladies on Sunday.

The two sides are a division-and-a-half apart but for three quarters of this tie, only an outstanding lob by Wasps skipper Naomi Cole could split them.

Suzanne Davies’ goal midway through the second half settled the visitors’ nerves and ensured they will face Lewes on March 22 at Lancing.

It completes the first of three season objectives, with promotion to the FA Women’s Premier League and a place in the League Cup final still on.

Wasps were well short of their usual performance levels but will have been satisfied to have overcome tenacious and tireless Eastbourne.

There had been very little action in the first 25 minutes until Cole spectacularly capitalised on an error.

Suzanne Davies slots in Wasps’ second goal (Picture: Andrew Hazelden)

A poor clearance from the Eastbourne keeper went straight to the former Millwall and Lewes player, who showed tremendous technique to send it into the net from the edge of the centre circle.

That did not dishearten the hosts nor inspire the visitors and the two sides too often cancelled each other out in a sometimes attritional battle.

Wasps did have the odd chance to settle it before Davies’ goal, with Nicholle Smith putting an effort over the bar from close range after good work from Kemina Webber, while Catherine O’Hagan got clear but shot at the keeper.

Davies doubled the lead after a fine pass from Charlie Carter, while Webber and Ariana Fleischman had chances late on, but a third would have been harsh on Eastbourne.

Wasps: Gibbs; Duncan, Niamh Stephenson, Carter, Ward; Elphick, Cole; N.Smith, T. Smith, Davies; C. O’Hagan. Subs: Fleischman, Webber.

PHOTO GALLERY: For more of Andrew Hazelden’s pictures from the game, click here.

MATCH REPORT: Crawley Wasps reserves 3 Meridian 0

Rosanne Fine scored twice against Meridian.

A three-goal blast in the first 26 minutes saw Crawley Wasps’ reserves into the semi-finals of the South East Counties League Cup at the expense of Meridian on Sunday.

Danielle Boyd set Wasps on their way in the opening seconds, before Rosanne Fine’s spectacular double before the break.

Simon Pavey’s team will now meet either Chichester City Development or Worthing in the last four.

The result was an impressive one, given Meridian have lost just once in the league this season and eight of the same players were beaten 4-2 by the Chatham-based club in November.

This was a role reversal from the moment Danielle Boyd – one of the three changes – fired home from Fine’s ball after just 45 seconds.

It was not all one-way traffic – home goalkeeper Rachel Hillman had to make a good save to deny Meridian an equaliser – but two crackers from Fine, the reserves’ top scorer from 2015-16, stretched the lead.

First, she lashed in from distance after good work from Lauren Callaghan and Rebekah Dunt, and then hooked in from an acute angle to make it 3-0.

The second half was often a scrappy affair as the Ewhurst pitch – passed playable after a morning inspection – began to get sticky in the middle, but the game opened up later in the half.

Hillman produced two good saves, while Boyd tested the Meridian keeper, who later pulled off an outstanding block to deny Fine.

A couple of crazy, muddy goalmouth scrambles prevented Wasps from adding to their victory margin.

Wasps reserves: Hillman; Richards, Rippin, Bolton, Callaghan; Natalie Stephenson, Tibble; Boyd, Fine, Dunt; Clark. Subs: Terry, Lawrence.

Wasps’ Ladies development side were beaten 2-0 at Montpelier Villa. The games involving the first team and Under-16s were postponed.

MATCH REPORT: Parkwood Rangers 0 Crawley Wasps 3

Wasps’ first-team boss Paul Walker

Crawley Wasps manager Paul Walker urged his side to keep their focus as their promotion bid continued with a 3-0 win at Parkwood Rangers on Sunday.

Goals from Kemina Webber, Faye Rabson and skipper Naomi Cole means they go into February still unbeaten this season, after 15 matches in all competitions.

More importantly, it puts them eight points clear of second-placed AFC Phoenix and 12 ahead of more likely title challengers London Kent Football United, who have three games in hand.

Wasps meet London KFU on March 18, when a victory could clinch a promotion to the FA Women’s Premier League.

But Walker warned: “It’s not a foregone conclusion. We’ve still got four games left.

“There are banana skins in there. We’ve got to show the same level of application we have all season.”

Webber’s first-minute opener settled any lingering nerves at Parkwood, but Wasps failed to make their dominance count until the second half.

Rabson’s fine run and finish put a bit of daylight between the two sides and she later teed up Cole to make it 3-0 after an excellent team move.

Midfielder Jade Elphick was named the Thales player of the match, while new signing Rachel Palmer made a composed debut at centre-back.

Wasps: Gibbs; Carter, Niamh Stephenson, Palmer, Ward; Elphick, Cole; Fleischman, T. Smith, Rabson; Webber. Subs: Davies, N. Smith.

Wasps’ development squad – the Ladies’ third team – were beaten 4-2 at Pagham in the Sussex Women’s League. Sonia Foster – who was later sent off – and Abi Knight scored Wasps’ goals.

Captain Zoe Martin netted the only goal in the reserves‘ 1-0 friendly win over Lewes Foundation, who are top of the division below.

SIGNING: Rachel Palmer joins Wasps from Lewes

Crawley Wasps are delighted to announce the signing of Rachel Palmer from FA Women’s Premier League high-flyers Lewes FC Women.

Crawley-based Rachel has made more than 110 appearances for Lewes over the past five seasons and further strengthens a Wasps squad currently top of the London & South East Premier Division, and unbeaten in all 15 league and cup matches this season.

Rachel, 24, will add experience and quality to Wasps’ squad as they pursue promotion to the FA WPL.

Wasps manager Paul Walker said he viewed the signing of Rachel as an excellent addition to the strongest squad in the club’s 25-year history, and a further endorsement of its growing reputation as one of the top sides in Sussex.

“Rachel joins us from a very well-run and ambitious club in Lewes FC Women,” he said.

“She is joining an equally ambitious club in Crawley Wasps, and a squad targeting rapid promotions as we strive to build a top-level semi-professional ladies side for Crawley, one the citizens of the town can be proud of and get behind in earnest.

“I am delighted Rachel is joining our talented squad and look forward to her playing a full part in us achieving our ambitious plans.”