Crawley Wasps put in a creditable display against Women’s Super League side Brighton but were beaten 5-1 in Thursday’s Sussex Challenge Cup final.
In a nod of respect to Wasps, Brighton fielded seven of the side that started their previous Women’s Super League game against Millwall and the three-division gap showed as the Seagulls raced into a 3-0 lead inside 12 minutes.
Alessio Russo opened the scoring after rounding Wasps keeper Marie Gillstroem, Kate Natkiel then slotted home after outpacing the defence and Lucy Somes curled in the third.
But far from crumbling, Wasps took the game to Albion, with Faye Rabson’s pace tormenting Wales international right-back Amelia Ritchie.
She created the goal Wasps deserved a few minutes before half-time, as a dynamic run took her across the edge of the box before she checked back and teed up Suzanne Davies, who clipped an excellent first-time shot into the far corner.
And they almost unsettled Brighton further just after the break when Naomi Cole’s free-kick was brilliantly kept out by Seagulls keeper Leah Samain.
And that proved a turning point as a few minutes later, Hollie Olding’s blocked shot fell kindly for Russo, who scuffed a low shot beyond Gillstrom.
Wasps still weren’t finished, with top scorer Rosanne Fine twice denied by the impressive Samain, although Brighton also hit the bar through Kate Natkiel and had a goal ruled out for offside.
Olding put a harsh gloss on the scoreline late on when she slotted past Gillstrom.
Boss Paul Walker said: “I couldn’t be prouder of my players.
“It was a super performance against a very strong Brighton side.
“It was just a shame we conceded three early goals.
“I thought we were really competitive in the second half.
“We had two or three excellent chances when their goalkeeper pulled off terrific saves.”
Wasps: Gillstrom; Duncan, Niamh Stephenson, Walker, Ward; Davies, Cole, Elphick, Rabson; Turbill; Fine. Subs: Poleykett, Boyd, N. Smith, Callaghan, Dunt
Crawley Wasps reserves had a 1-0 victory at Abbey Rangers thanks to Amy Clark’s goal. Toni Smith was the Thales Player of the Match.
Wasps’ Under-16s won 5-2 at Newhaven with Lily Beckett and Nicky Durling both scoring twice.
Captain Jodie Barker fired in a free-kick to wrap up the win and Abbie Chart was named the player of the match.
For Wasps Under-15s - playing in a boys’ league this season - Poppy Nicholls scored their fourth league goal of a challenging but worthwile campaign.
Wasps were 5-1 behind at the break before Withdean ran out 18-1 winners.