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.
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.