Crawley Wasps stun Oxford United as they progress to League Cup semi-final

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Crawley Wasps are through to the Women’s National League Cup semi-finals after defeating Oxford United 1-0 in Horley yesterday

Dan Logue’s Crawley Wasps were victorious against high-flying Oxford United yesterday afternoon at The New Defence in Horley, as Tash Stephens’ second-half header was the difference in an incredible 1-0 victory against a side five league places above the Wasps in league competition this season.

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Wasps started the game with relentless energy, testing Oxford going forward, especially in wide positions. Minutes into the game Stephens displayed her acceleration, dashing past her marker and winning a corner which was executed beautifully with a pre-planned routine which saw a dummy from Naomi Cole. The ball fell to the in-form Iesha Swaby who had a strike tipped over the bar acrobatically by the goalkeeper.

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Crawley earned further corners after more attacking pressure before going close again through Swaby and Stephens. The Brighton & Hove Albion loanee tricked across the byline before squaring to Stephens who had her shot from a yard out blocked before the ball was eventually recovered by the goalkeeper.

As the half-hour mark approached, Captain Naomi Cole showed her importance within the side in midfield following a short-term injury, spraying a magnificent long ball over the top to Hope Nash who did well to stride forward before being challenged firmly by her marker on the right side.

The first-half was nearing an end with Crawley the dominant force, but Oxford did have one chance late on that was recovered expertly by Sokhara Goodall who swung across to slide in and intercept a dangerous runner with a well-timed tackle.

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Tash Stephens heads in from Naomi Cole’s free-kickTash Stephens heads in from Naomi Cole’s free-kick
Tash Stephens heads in from Naomi Cole’s free-kick

Two minutes after the break, Iesha Swaby again used her crafty footwork to win a clever foul in a wide deep position, as Cole stepped up to cross. The ball into the area was pinpoint, finding the head of a leaping Tash Stephens who was amongst a bundle of Oxford defenders, rising highest to give Crawley a deserved lead.

Ten minutes later, Rachel Palmer hooked an excellent long ball through to Swaby who beat the offside trap before composing herself and shooting at the goalkeeper. Another punishing direct attack from Crawley.

Goalkeeper Jacqui Goldsmid was forced into action in the second-half as the away side began to warm up, making a solid catch to stop a drilled effort from range.

The defensive shape continued to solidify, as Crawley remained in control and were able to limit the danger from a side that are notorious for goals this season, only losing twice in the league and sitting second with eyes on promotion to the Women’s Championship.

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Wasps players celebrate cup victory against OxfordWasps players celebrate cup victory against Oxford
Wasps players celebrate cup victory against Oxford

With minutes of normal time to play, player of the match Nicola Gibson made two consecutive blocks in the area to stop two fierce close-range efforts, before Palmer also headed off of the line after a cross into the area caught the wind.

The full-time whistle blew after a mindblowing fifteen minutes of added time were played to the Wasps’ despair, but the players and staff erupted into celebration at the prospect of facing either Southampton, Huddersfield, Brighouse or Fylde in the semi-final. The draw will be announced at 4pm today.

Wasps XI: Goldsmid; Nash, Goodall, Russell, Palmer; Gibson, Cole, Lancaster (Jackson 68’), Edwards (Talbut-Smith 78’); Stephens, Swaby (Murton 87’).

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