Captain Helen Ward praised Watford FC Ladies’ resilience and maturity after they made a winning start to the Women’s National League Southern Premier Division campaign with a 2-0 triumph at Portsmouth.

The skipper was on target twice on Sunday to ensure a successful start on the south coast as the Golden Girls aim to be among the division’s frontrunners from the outset of the campaign.

Ward said: “It was a good start to the season. I think Portsmouth will cause quite a few teams problems, especially at their place. They’ve got a good side and had a good pre-season so we knew to expect a tough game.

“You could tell they wanted to play football and we had to bide our time a little bit, but once we got the opening goal I think we felt quite confident that we would go on to win the game.

“It wasn’t our best performance with the ball, but we were resilient and showed a good level of maturity, even though we’ve got a very young squad, in managing the game for the most part.

“There’s still things to develop in that area, but a clean sheet and two goals in the first game is something we’re very pleased with.”

The striker, who was yesterday named in Wales’ 22-player squad for their opening Euro 2021 qualifiers against Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland, admitted it was pleasing to open her scoring account in the first game of the campaign.

She said: “As a forward it’s always a bit of a weight off four shoulders when you score your first goal of the season, so the earlier it can come the better.

“I’ve been in a position where it’s taken nine, 10 games to get off the mark and it does weigh heavy, so it’s nice to have a couple and I managed to score a few in pre-season as well so I felt confident.”

Armand Kavaja included two of the club’s summer additions in the starting XI, goalkeeper Nina Wilson and midfielder Megan Chandler.

The visitors made a positive start to the contest and made the breakthrough in the 15th minute when Ward found space on the right and beat keeper Hannah Haughton with a low finish.

After Katie James had missed a fine chance to equalise when she shot narrowly wide with only Wilson to beat, the visitors enjoyed more chances. Jennifer Kikomeko forced Haughton into a good save at her near post with a deflected effort, while Ward couldn’t get quite enough contact on a loose ball.

However, the captain established daylight in first-half injury time when she beat Haughton for a second time with a fine finish.

Moments before that goal though, the Golden Girls had lost Elle Richards to injury, meaning Emma Beckett came on for her third debut following her return to the club and slotted into a less familiar central defensive role.

Leanne Bell and Andrea Carid had further opportunities after the break as Watford continued to look defensively solid, despite their reshuffle at the back.

Ward almost completed her hat-trick in superb fashion in the closing stages, seeing a chip hit the bar after a fine move started by Beckett and involving fellow debutant, substitute Ocean Rolandsen.

The Hornets had to work hard to retain their clean sheet though, with Jade Bradley hitting the post before Wilson made a fine stop to keep out a Jade Widdows header.

The two teams will renew acquaintance this Sunday in the determining round of the National League Cup and Ward is looking forward to another match that she believes will be benefit Watford's development.

She added: “Whether they change anything, whether Armand and our coaches decide to change anything from our point of view, it will probably be a very different game to this weekend but it’s another game against a good opposition that’s going to help us as we’re still developing as a newish squad.”

Watford FC Ladies: Wilson, Kettle, Hill, Richards (Beckett 45), Johnson, Kikomeko, Chandler, Bell (Rolandsen 67), Carid (Scanlon 72), Ward, Fatuga-Dada.