Captain Helen Ward scored a last-gasp winner as Watford Ladies edged a nine-goal thriller against Portsmouth Women in remarkable fashion.

The Golden Girls looked to have the National League Southern Premier Division contest firmly under control by the hour after Ward’s brace, a Leanne Bell effort and an own goal had the hosts 4-1 to the good.

However, Pompey had other ideas, reducing the deficit to 4-3 before Katie James had seemingly snatched a point in injury time.

Letting such a position slip would have left many sides deflated, but Watford responded by putting together a superb move which Ward capitalised on to complete her hat-trick and seal a memorable triumph.

Boss Armand Kavaja chose to keep faith with the same side that had performed impressively in the 3-0 FA Cup defeat at Manchester City Women the previous week, but new signing Jennifer Kikomeko was included on the bench for the first time.

Following a slow start at the County Ground in Letchworth – yesterday’s game was moved due to Kings Langley’s pitch being unplayable – the home side made the breakthough when Ward and Adekite Fatuga-Dada combined to impressive effect and the skipper finished high into the net.

That advantage was quickly doubled as Bell got to a through ball first, but as she looked to go round Hannah Haughton, the goalkeeper got a foot to it and the ball then struck Danielle Rowe before crossing the line.

Watford had opportunities to score a third before the break, but the visitors were also looking more dangerous and Weronkia Baranowska had to produce a superb double save to deny Rebecca Bath when through one-on-one.

However, the Hornets goalkeeper was to be beaten before the interval when a defensive mistake allowed Shannon Albuery to make it 2-1.

Having seen their advantage halved, Watford responded in impressive fashion and had restored their two-goal cushion within a minute of the resumption as Ward curled home her second after receiving a Kat Huggins pass.

The scorer was soon to turn supplier as the captain played the ball across the six-yard box for Bell to finish from close range.

Watford could have gone even further ahead in the first 15 minutes of the second half, with Ward denied a hat-trick while Fatuga-Dada did find the back of the net, only to see an offside flag raised.

But if the Hornets thought they had the points wrapped up, they were in for a shock as Rachel Panting converted a penalty before Rebekah Tonks made the score 4-3.

Still there was no let-up in the goalmouth action; Golden Girls substitute Katie O’Leary hit the post, Baranowska foiled Albuery before Haughton came out on top in a one-on-one with Ward.

The south coast side were to score again in the first minute of injury time though, as James got a touch on a seemingly harmless ball into the box to beat Baranowska.

The home side’s reaction to being pegged back could not have been better.

Fatuga-Dada left a Portsmouth defender for dead, she then played a one-two with Alysha Stojko-Down, received the ball back and centred for Ward to tap in a memorable winner.

Watford FC Ladies: Baranowska; Hallsworth, Kettle, Hill, Huggins, Stojko-Down, Scanlon (Edwards 90), Carid (O’Leary 55), Fatuga-Dad, Bell (Kikomeko 69), Ward.