Watford Ladies were unable to build on taking the lead as Nicola Hobbs saved the crucial penalty to give London Bees a 5-4 shoot-out victory in the Continental Tyres Cup.

The Hornets opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time thanks to Rinsola Babajide’s header, but Emma Beckett equalised for the Bees in the closing minutes to send the match to penalties.

With the score at 5-4, Hobbs saved Meghan McKeag’s penalty to prevail in the shoot-out and hand Luke Swindlehurst’s side two points in their final Group One South fixture.

“It was scrappy from start to finish, both teams didn’t really get into a passing game,” Watford striker Helen Ward said. “I think in the first half we’ve had the chances to probably be two or three up at least, myself included. I should have put a couple away.

“We got the goal right at the end of the half and thought that would spur us on. We probably could have had another one early in the second half but then they started to get on top. We were a bit naive in how we played at times, not playing the right balls, not doing the right things.”

Ward, who played the full 90 minutes three months after giving birth to her second child, continued: “Credit to London Bees, they got themselves back in the game and equalised with the penalty. When it comes to the penalty shoot-out it’s a bit of a lottery.

“I think both sides will argue that they had chances to win it so on the balance of play [a draw was] probably fair.”

The Bees almost took the lead after 27 minutes when Chelsea Weston headed captain Beckett’s free-kick wide.

Ward went close 12 minutes later when she cut inside but her chipped shot was pushed onto the bar by Hobbs.

But Watford did make the breakthrough one minute before half-time when captain Nuttall’s corner was nodded home by the unmarked Babajide.

A combination of Watford goalkeeper Fran Kitching and a mix-up in the Bees attack kept the score at 1-0 shortly after the break.

Substitute Danielle Lea saw her long-range strike comfortably saved by Kitching with 15 minutes remaining. From the resulting corner, Beckett’s acrobatic effort sailed harmlessly wide.

But she did get her goal eight minutes from time when Nuttall fouled Weston in the box and Beckett fired her penalty into the top corner.

Watford held on for penalties but although Paula Howells missed Bees’ opening kick, substitute Adekite Fatuga-Dada hit the bar for Watford and McKeag’s penalty was saved in sudden death to give the win to the Bees.

Watford Ladies: Kitching; Kerr, McCarthy, Jones, McKeag; Maple, Nuttall; Bell (Fatuga-Dada 79), Will (Albert 67), Babajide; Ward. Subs not used: Burgess; Petkova, Murray.