The returning Emma Plewa inspired Crawley Wasps to a 3-1 victory over Portsmouth on Sunday, which put them back on top of the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division.
Former Wales international Plewa set up the opening goal and then scored twice herself on her first league appearance since April.
A hard-fought game, played on a heavy pitch at East Grinstead Town FC, kept a season’s-best crowd of 235 thoroughly entertained.
Visitors Portsmouth, whose boss Jay Sadler won October’s manager of the month award, started brightly with Jade Bradley forcing Wasps keeper Frankie Gibbs into a fine early save.
But against the run of play, Paul Walker’s side took the lead on 17 minutes. Plewa delivered from the left and fellow winger Tash Stephens converted from close range against her former club.
Wasps skipper Naomi Cole then drove narrowly past the angle of post and bar, but Pompey equalised when Gibbs tipped Tamsin De Bunsen’s shot on to the bar and Jade Widdows netted the rebound.
However, Wasps went back in front moments later as Charlotte Young’s ball sent Plewa clear and she coolly slotted low into the far corner.
Pompey then went down to 10 men after Katie James was sent off for an attempted kick out.
But despite their staff-shortage, the visitors kept the second half very competitive, although clear-cut chances were at a premium.
Widdows and Wasps’ Sam Pittuck went close at either end before Plewa wrapped things up on 77 minutes with another run and clinical finish.
Wasps: Gibbs; Nash, Russell, James, Palmer; Young, Cole; Stephens (Ledezma-Viso 71), Stow (Drury 71), Plewa; Pittuck (Carter 82). Subs not used: Graves, Owen.