Crawley Wasps made a sensational start to life in the FA Women’s National League on Sunday with a 5-1 victory over an Ipswich Town side who finished third in the division last season.
Sian Heather, one of four debutants in the Wasps squad, made an instant impact with two goals and an assist while last season’s top scorer Faye Rabson also grabbed a brace.
It was American midfielder Ariana Fleischman, though, who had the honour of scoring Wasps’ first goal in the fourth tier of women’s football – and it came after just six minutes. Rabson burst past her marker in the left channel and although her shot was blocked, Fleischman finished from close range.
Ipswich keeper Toni-Anne Wayne denied Megan Stow and Rabson as Wasps dominated, and when she was sold short by a team-mate’s backpass on 29 minutes, Rabson nipped in to make it 2-0.
The visitors pulled one back as captain Amanda Crump curled in a fine shot from distance but Wasps restored their two-goal cushion before the break when Heather stabbed in after Wayne saved from Rabson.
In the second half, Jenny Drury brought an outstanding save from Wayne but Wasps were not to be thwarted for long – as former Lewes striker Heather took centre stage around the hour mark.
First, she slid in Rabson, who finished coolly, and then produced an exceptional dipping shot from 25 yards which flew over a helpless Wayne.
Wasps keeper Frankie Gibbs was alert on the rare occasions she was called upon, while Heather could have had a hat-trick, but was denied by a combination of the keeper and the post.
Manager Paul Walker said: “We executed our gameplan well. We wanted to put them under pressure early on. It’s a long season with some tough games but it’s great to get off to a good start.”
Wasps are on the road this Sunday as they face Enfield Town (2pm kick-off).
Wasps: Gibbs; Niamh Stephenson (Measures 69), James, Young, Palmer; Stow, Cole; Fleischman, Drury (Carter 62), Rabson (Davies 69); Heather. Subs not used: Samain, Webber.