Crawley Wasps edged out a determined Enfield Town 1-0 on Sunday to clinch back-to-back promotions and earn a historic place in the third tier of women’s football.
Kemina Webber struck the winning goal in the 84th minute, latching on to Naomi Cole’s inch-perfect long ball before rounding the ‘keeper, to spark jubilant scenes at Worthing’s Woodside Road ground.
The victorious Wasps squad climbed the steps into the main stand to lift the FA Women’s National League Division 1 South East trophy.
But the champagne was almost left on ice as Crawley struggled, particularly in the first half, to break down a well organised Enfield, who also occasionally threatened on the break.
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Wasps’ Ariana Fleischman forced an early save from Enfield ‘keeper Caoimhe O’Reilly, and but the visitors then went close with a shot on the turn that flew just wide of the far post.
Defender Charlotte Young tried to inject some life into her side’s first-half display by unleashing a drive which narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Paul Walker’s side improved after the break and dominated the second half, Rachel Palmer stabbing into the arms of O’Reilly, who also twice denied Cole, and they also passed up other good chances.
Just as it looked as though the title race would go into next weekend’s game at Ipswich, Cole picked out Webber from deep inside her own half, and the striker beat O’Reilly to the ball and stroked in.
There was still time for Young to twice go close – once with a header just over the bar, the other saved after a fine run – while substitute Emma Plewa also force O’Reilly into a stop.
Assistant manager Dave Cole said: “The longer the game was going on, we were putting more pressure on them.
“This has put Crawley on the map, we’re up there now with sides backed by men’s teams. It’s where we want to be.”
Goalscorer Webber added: “We knew it was coming, we just had to keep going and be patient.”
Wasps: Gibbs; Young, James, Russell; Fleischman (Rabson 55), Cole, Drury, Palmer; Green (Plewa 68); Stow, Webber (Davies 90). Subs not used: Graves, Measures.