The head coach of Watford Ladies praised his side’s second-half display following Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Doncaster Rovers Belles, feeling their confidence grew after scoring.

Goals inside the opening 12 minutes from Jess Sigsworth and Sam Tierney put the Women’s Super League 2 leaders in control early on, and they added a third through Maz Pacheco before Anneka Nuttall pulled one back before half-time.

Despite suffering their ninth defeat of the season, the Hornets held their unbeaten opponents in a goalless second half and head coach Armand Kavaja said: “We tried our best. We’ve had a long journey and have a lot young players in the squad and a lot of rotation since the last time we played them.

“It was a bit of a shock at the beginning for us because they’re a good side. They try and play out of the back and they do that well, but it was a good performance from us in the second half.

“We’ve got a lot of young, inexperienced players in there and that has a lot to do with their confidence, so when they do get a goal it does give their confidence a bit of a boost.

“If they had a bit more experience they could manage the game a little bit better in terms of when they go down 1-0, but it was a bit of a better performance from all of the side after we got that goal.”

The visitors were given a warning of what was to come when a Pacheco shot was deflected on to the post by Watford defender Sydney Hinchcliffe.

But it didn’t take Belles long to go in front as Sigsworth poked home from close range after Pacheco’s cross wasn’t cleared.

Tierney doubled the lead with her first senior goal, heading a cross from the impressive Kirsty Hanson in off the woodwork.

A defensive mix-up between Sophie Bradley-Auckland and Leandra Little allowed Helen Ward to go through for a rare Watford chance, but she her misjudged attempt to chip Bethan Davies and the ball went straight into the keeper’s arms.

The Belles made it three through Pacheco, who beat several Watford players on a slalom run through the middle before sliding a low finish past Fran Kitching.

The visitors pulled one back just a minute before half-time, with captain Nuttall’s attempted cross flying over Davies’ head and in off the far post.

Doncaster thought they’d made it four through captain Little midway through the second half, only for the lineman’s flag to rule it out for offside.

Another goal was ruled out on 70 minutes as Sigsworth went clean through the middle, but a late linesman’s flag ruled it out for a foul on Hinchcliffe.

Next up for the Hornets is a trip to Sheffield on Sunday, April 15 following the international break and Kavaja is expecting another difficult game.

He said: “We have to be prepared for Sheffield’s physicality and be a bit more physical ourselves.

“Again, it’s all got to do with experience, and I think the players need to learn that quickly when they play these types of games. It’s going to be tough against Sheffield.

“We try to go into every game and play our game and try to be positive all the time. Sometimes we come up against opposition like Doncaster, and sometimes we come up against opposition like Tottenham. It’s all different types of football and it can cause you different types of problems in the game.

“We have to learn to adapt quickly to the game as we learn. For instance, we conceded quite early here, and we need to settle in to the game early on.

“It’s all got to do with the day as well: sometimes we’ve got injuries and sometimes they’ve got injuries.”