Strikes from Immy Lancaster, Nikita Whinnett, Darcey James and Flo Jackson gave the Wasps a comfortable victory at a sun soaked Woodside Road, with Sara Tubby’s fine strike for the Reds providing only consolation in the end.

Both sides started brightly, but it was the visitors who found the breakthrough on 10-minutes with the first real opening of the contest. After a Wasps corner had been scrambled away by the Worthing rearguard, Whinett crossed back in for Lancaster who rose to head past Lucy Apps in the home goal to give her side the lead.

Worthing initially responded well to that early setback, Beth Kincaid was the first to try her luck for the hosts on 12-minutes, when her speculative effort was easily held by visiting keeper Megan Lynch.

Following a frustrating first 20-minutes, Kincaid made way for Sophie Humphrey as manager Michelle Lawrence reshuffled her tactics to try and force an equaliser. The away side had a great chance to double their lead after 23-minutes when James found space inside the box, however she could only shoot straight at Apps from six yards as Crawley began to threaten a second goal.

Despite their confident start, Wasps were nearly pegged back on 27-minutes. Following a loose pass out from Lynch, Caroline Hodgson stole possession and tried her luck from distance, however her dipping lob flashed wide to the relief of the Wasps bench.

Manager Lawrence made another change on 34-minutes, with Tubby replacing Hodgson in the Worthing attack.

Crawley found their second goal of the game barely two-minutes after that change. A quick counter-attack from the away side found Emma Plewa on the right hand side, her cross into the centre was fumbled by Apps, and with Worthing failing to clear the ball, Whinnett tapped in from close range to double her side’s advantage.

Not to be deterred once again, Worthing continued to cause problems for the visitors, and they came to within a whisker of pulling one goal back on the stroke of half time. With the visitors seemingly cruising, Humphrey stole possession and fed Tubby, whose piledriver crashed off the underside of the Wasps crossbar and away to safety.

Worthing introduced Keavy Price for Tegan Andrade-Paris at half time to give their backline extra energy going into the second half as manager Lawrence reshuffled her formation to cause the away side more problems.

The second half began with both sides evenly matched but on 60-minutes, Crawley found their decisive third goal when James rose highest at the back post from another corner for a simple header to put the game beyond Worthing with half an hour still to play.

Worthing again responded well to conceding and almost pulled a goal back on 65-minutes when Tubby’s cross found Worsfold, who volleyed wide of the Wasps far post when well positioned.

The Reds finally found the goal their performance warranted when Worsfold intercepted a long ball from Lynch and picked out Tubby, who rifled in a powerful drive past Lynch and into the top corner to give her side hope going into the final 20-minutes.

It was all Worthing in the late stages of the game, Natalie Taylor was the next to go close when she blazed over after the home side saw a free kick only partially cleared on 74-minutes.

Lawrence made her final substitution on 78-minutes, when captain Hannah Hewlett was replaced by Alice Walford as the hosts made one last attempt to salvage the game, and she almost had an immediate impact when she fed a great ball through for Worsfold on 80-minutes, however Lynch was quick off her line to prevent Worthing from reducing the deficit further.

Wasps thought they had scored their fourth on 89-minutes when a corner appeared to fly straight into the Worthing net, however the officials failed to flag that the ball had crossed the line to the bemusement of both sides.

The final goal of the game came deep into added time, when Pewa fed Jackson into the Worthing box, with the Wasps forward making no mistake with a precise finish beyond Apps to complete a good afternoon’s work from the away side.

That was the final action of an emphatic win for Crawley, who began their Cup title defence in ideal fashion. Worthing will be encouraged by a largely positive performance against a side three tiers higher in the league pyramid.

After the game, Captain Hannah Hewlett was feeling upbeat despite her side falling to defeat. On her team’s performance, she said “Obviously we never want to lose, but we were competitive throughout the whole game and gave a good account of ourselves. We’re an ambitious group and we want to be playing this quality of team week in week out, we made Wasps work hard for their rewards today. We need to keep working hard if we want to achieve our short and long term goals going forward as a football club and I believe we’re certainly going in the right direction”

Manager Michelle Lawrence was also keen to look on the bright side despite her side’s defeat. On today’s game, she said “It was a good experience for the players today.  Some would not have played against tier three opposition before but they were not overawed. In fact, quite the opposite, the team had some nice spells of possession.  The fact Wasps fielded their full first team squad shows they knew not to under-estimate us, it is just a pity that we did not make them work harder for their goals.  We also needed a little more self-belief in the final third.  That said, I believe there was a foul in the build up to their second goal, we hit the cross bar and had a penalty claim at 3-1. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t do enough to win the match but if those things go in our favour it puts a different slant on the score line”.

The Reds face another tough test next Sunday when they travel to fourth tier Actonians in the third qualifying round of The Women’s FA Cup.

Photo credit: Kia Addison (Instagram @k.addisonphoto)