Sussex Women's Challenge Cup Wed 12 January Horley Football Club
Crawley Wasps

Illness robbed the team of the services of Amy Critchfield, meaning a recall for Ella Newman, while recent signings Katie Cooper and Emily Linscett were cup-tied. Shawna Harvey started on the bench alongside Becky Simmons who swapped places with Sara Tubby.

The visitors came into the game as underdogs but refused to be overawed by their more illustrious opponents.

However, they almost found themselves behind as early as the third minute, when Lauren Dolbear was forced into a flying save to keep out Emma Plewa after Tash Stephens had slipped her in.

Chances were at a premium to begin with and it took a further twenty minutes for the next one of note, when Holly Talbut-Smith’s byline delivery went all the way across the danger zone for Flo Jackson to fire over the top.

The ‘hosts’ continued to threaten through Captain Naomi Cole, who was thwarted by Katie Young’s block in the box and Stephens, following up, could only find the side-netting.

Shortly after the half-hour mark a combination of Dolbear and her crossbar kept the tie goalless.

Ellie Russell played a pass to Plewa that she cut inside with, before drilling a low shot from just outside the area that Dolbear parried and Phoebe Murton laid the loose ball back to Stephens to hit the top of the crossbar.

At this juncture, Blues struggled to clear their lines and less than sixty seconds later a rare mistake saw Young gift possession straight to Nicola Gibson, who duly punished the Worthing defender with a first-time finish that she swept into the net, inches away from the edge of the eighteen yard box.

Undeterred, the reply was swift thanks to Newman breaking clear down the left and supplying Becs Bell. Her cut inside opened up the space to shoot, only to pull her effort marginally the wrong side of the near upright.

The very early stages of the second period saw half-time substitute Harvey almost have an immediate impact, as Charlie Carter’s long ball forward wasn’t properly dealt with by Sokara Goodhall. A weak header soon pounced upon by Harvey who drove towards the target before laying off to Sophie Humphrey, advancing on the right, though her rising drive rose a tad too much.

Unfortunately, a second unforced error then resulted in a second Crawley goal.

Carter unintentionally picked out Murton; punishment being swift and unequivocally accurate, via a subsequent threaded through pass which allowed Wales international Plewa to take it in her stride and slot past an exposed Dolbear, to double the deficit.

Once again heads didn’t drop and Harvey resumed her creative role, by sending in a delightful right wing cross that a sliding Gemma Worsfold diverted back across the six yard area, as the opportunity went begging.

Controversy then lent a helping hand to give Worthing an even bigger mountain to climb.

A long punt upfield by Goodhall was intercepted by Carter who got to the ball ahead of Plewa. Only for the referee to decide that Dolbear’s picking up of said ball, as it ran through to the traveller’s number one constituted a back pass. Chloe Lelliott dispersed Stephen’s initial free-kick but Rachel Palmer was on hand to bury the rebound.

Picking themselves up off the canvas for a third time, the South Coasters responded with a positive and purposeful run from Worsfold that led to Harvey helping onto Humphrey; debutant Lois Edwards performing her defensive duties admirably when she went to ground in blocking behind for a flag-kick.

Wasps looked to sting their plucky opposition with a fourth, a little under twenty from time, only for Stephens to drill past the far post close-in.

The final five saw both teams carve out further openings; Harvey finding the gloves of Jaqui Goldsmith, after Molly Thorns had dispossessed Hope Nash in front of the away side’s dugout.

Then shortly afterwards releasing the recently-introduced Simmons with a ball over the top – following a misplaced pass by sub Izzy Burt – that saw Becky just beaten to it by the home netminder.

Skipper Hannah Hewlett lofted a neat dink for Simmons, as the end drew ever closer, although an unexpected heavy touch would see Cole send Talbut-Smith scampering away from the centre circle and require a late intervention, impeccably timed by Newman in the penalty area to halt the flying yellow shirt in her tracks.

One last opportunity presented itself to the aforementioned Newman, when she broke clear herself, evading edge-of-the-box tackles before forcing Goldsmith to get down, in a non-musical sense and push out for a corner.

Culver Road/Wembley would have to wait for another year.