A much-changed Watford Ladies side confirmed their participation in the FA WNL Cup proper following a 2-1 victory in Dorset against Poole Town in the determining round of the competition.

The Golden Girls were made to battle in the absence of captain Helen Ward on international duty with Wales, and several other regulars, with the visitors finding the going tough at times.

They took the lead, however, when Linda Afuakwah found the net from close in, but both sides would go in at the break level after Faye Rolfe-Hawkins fired home Poole’s equaliser.

Armand Kavaja’s side had to show plenty of patience in a second half they dominated, with Poole goalkeeper Samantha Chrippes and a resolute defence doing much to frustrate the efforts of the Watford side until the winner arrived four minutes from time courtesy of an own goal.

The visitors made no fewer than nine changes as Kavaja tested the club’s strength in depth and handed competitive debuts to Afiya Johnson, Anna Re, Holly Greenwood and Katie Akerman.

And it was the Hornets who registered the first meaningful effort on goal when Laura Baker fired over the bar from just inside the area.

Hosts Poole’s best early sighter came courtesy of Samantha Gubb who did well to fashion a chance, only to drag her effort wide of the left-hand post.

Watford’s bright start, though, was rewarded with 25 minutes on the clock. Katie O’Leary, one of only two players to keep their places following the Loughborough defeat, hit the post with an effort and Afuakwah was on hand to turn home.

However Poole’s reaction was immediate and they levelled shortly after the half-hour mark, with Rolfe-Hawkins slotting into the bottom right corner past Weronika Baranowska after a through ball had picked her out.

The Golden Girls might have gone in at the break in front, though, had they taken one of the two excellent chances that fell their way.

First, Afuakwah was denied the goal that would have seen her and her side double up for the afternoon as Chrippes made a smart stop to turn the effort round the post.

From the subsequent corner, Baker might have been disappointed not to hit the target as her header skipped wide and Poole remained unscathed.

The second half saw both teams trade early chances as O’Leary had an effort saved and Rebecca Miles flashed a free-kick over for the hosts.

And when Chrippes prevented O’Leary from re-establishing the Hornets’ lead, a frustrating remainder of the afternoon looked in prospect for Kavaja’s side with extra-time beckoning.

But in the final 20 minutes, Watford upped the ante in search of the winner and again found Chrippes in inspired form to deny Baker what would have been an excellent goal.

First-team regular Leanne Bell was introduced from the bench and made a decisive contribution as it was her cross that was turned into her own net by Lauren Jones after 86 minutes – a goal that proved to be the winner.