An unhappy Keith Boanas was frank in his post-match assessment after Watford Ladies’ Women’s Super League 2 season got off to a disappointing start with a 3-1 defeat at Millwall Lionesses.

There had been a sense of optimism going into Sunday's game following an encouraging pre-season and some significant signings. And hopes the Lady Hornets could get off to a winning start were fuelled when Simona Petkova gave her side a fifth-minute lead. But that was as good as it got for Boanas’ side and a poor start to the campaign was to be capped when Laura May-Walkley was sent off.

“If truth known, the new signings are probably not 100 per cent fit yet,” the Watford head coach admitted. “Bianca Bragg has come back from quite a long lay-off and we kind of took a chance on her experience getting her through the game. I think the same with Laura May-Walkley just coming back from a knee injury.

“I don’t use that as an excuse for not doing the basics well and not fighting hard enough and I think we left ourselves down in that area.

“Certainly with Laura she got frustrated [with the second yellow card], I don’t think she deserved a red card. I don’t think the second one was a yellow card, I think the ref kind of had his eye on her after the other things. That’s another story.”

Boanas will be looking for better when the Golden Girls face Oxford United Women in their first home match of the season on Sunday and he continued: “We got hopefully our worst game out of the way in the first game of the season. I cannot believe we will play that poorly again. I think players you normally rely on performed probably as badly as I’ve ever seen them play today.

“I think all three goals were more our mistakes and our poor reactions.”

The signs had looked promising when Watford’s most recent signing Bianca Bragg helped get her new side off to the ideal start as her precise cross found Petkova in the box and the midfielder poked home from close range.

But Millwall responded quickly as Billie Brooks rose highest to head in Ashlee Hincks' corner after 20 minutes.

And on the stroke of half-time, Leanne Cowan broke through the visitors’ defence to put Millwall in front going into the interval.

Despite early Watford pressure after the restart, Ella Rutherford was able to stretch Millwall’s lead after a powerful shot from Ellie Mason rebounded off the bar and fell kindly to the teenager, who couldn’t miss.

Rianna Dean could have made it 4-1 from the spot but Jo Fletcher made a superb save to deny the substitute from getting on the scoresheet.

Moments later, Rinsola Babajide had Watford's best chance of the half, but she was only able to hit the post from 12 yards out.

May-Walkley was then given her marching orders in the 81st minute after receiving a second yellow on a frustrating afternoon for the Hornets.

Sunday's opening home league game of the season takes place at Watford Ladies' Kings Langley FC home and kicks off at 3pm.

Watford Ladies: Fletcher; McKeag, Jones, Nutall, Babajide, May-Walkley, Bragg (Albert 55), Petkova (Kerr 55), Sargent, Will, Maple (Fituga-Dada 70). Subs not used: Kitching, Neal, McCarthy.