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 >>