Natalie Stephenson’s set-piece brilliance inspired Crawley Wasps reserves to a 2-1 victory over Chichester City Development on Sunday.
The former first-team captain, now a mainstay of the second string, struck an excellent free-kick and powered in a penalty as the hosts came from a goal behind at half-time.
Chi, who started the day top of the South East Counties Premier Division, started the more confident side and, after Wasps keeper Hope Laker was forced into a scrambling save, the visitors took the lead from the resulting corner.
Both sides then hit the bar, Laker tipping a shot on to the woodwork and home skipper Zoe Martin seeing a deflected shot loop up and cannon back, while both keepers also made important stops.
Wasps’ Amy Clark saw a shot blocked on the line before Chi’s Loulou Robson sadly suffered a broken ankle in slipping on the ball in a challenge with Toni Smith.
Wasps started to get a grip on midfield in the second half, with Lisa Richards lifting a shot over and Clark seeing an effort pushed away, and they deservedly equalised when Stephenson hit a stunning free-kick from 30 yards out.
With the tireless Richards, skipper Martin and Thales player of the match Rebekah Dunt all impressing, Wasps pressed for a winner, which duly came when the referee spotted a handball in the area, and Stephenson slammed in the spot-kick.
Wasps reserves: Laker; Richards, Duncan, Bolton, Coaker; Natalie Stephenson, Martin, Harding, Dunn; Dunt, Clark. Subs: Paul, N, Smith, T. Smith.
Wasps’ Development Squad – the club’s new ladies third team – were forced to field defender Jodie Barker in goal as a side depleted by injuries and illness lost 6-0 at Saltdean Ladies, expected to be among the favourites for the Sussex County Women’s League.
There was no game for the first team, while the Under-16s were awarded the points following Horsham Sparrows’ withdrawal.