For the second time in three weeks a Blackburn Rovers team visited Watford and came away with a 1-0 win they scarcely deserved as the Women were beaten 1-0 at Grosvenor Vale this afternoon.

At the back end of August, Rovers left Vicarage Road with a 1-0 victory that truly was a smash and grab raid.

This defeat for Damon Lathrope’s side – their first at home since November – was equally hard to take although on this occasion the visitors did offer slightly more than their male counterparts.

Watford played the better football, had more of the possession and created excellent chances. However, Lathrope would be the first to admit that for his side to be as competitive as they can be in this division, they will need to turn that into goals and points.

The first half of the game was played in pretty dreadful conditions, driving rain which changed direction as the wind swirled around.

The visitors were physically bigger, more direct and looked to capitalise on their height advantage, which they eventually did from a corner a minute before half-time for the only goal of the game.

Watford were afforded minimal protection from the young referee and her two equally young assistants. However, the clearly more senior fourth official ought to have stepped in on the occasions where Rovers overstepped the mark and went from robust to rough.

However, he seemed more concerned that everyone in the dug-out was sitting down than the quite clear elbow to the throat that striker Carly Johns received towards the end of the game when she was chasing a ball over the top.

He had a good view of it, as those of us stood behind him did, and it was quite obvious the Rovers defender realised Johns was going to outpace her as her eyes were more on the Watford forward. The referee was close enough to see it was a foul, even if she was the wrong side of the incident to see exactly what happened.

However, she chose to give nothing – and did similar right at the death when a Watford cross from the right appeared to be controlled in the box by a Rovers arm.

Putting those decisions aside, Watford should still have taken at least a point home and that they didn’t was down to a combination of their own wastefulness in the final third and a series of fine saves from Blackburn keeper Alex Brooks.

Some of the football the Golden Girls played was sublime. Lathrope has them moving the ball around at the back and through midfield in a very similar style to that being adopted by Valerien Ismael.

The difference is Lathrope has had a season of doing so – perhaps a reminder that persistence with a style of play that can at times be risky does pay dividend if persevered with over time.

At the back Harley Bennett continued to captain the side and her experience and excellent reading of the game perfectly dovetailed with the youthful fearlessness of Katie Reid, the 16-year-old on a dual registration from Arsenal belying her years with some fine passing and marshalling of the Rovers forward line.

The back three is made up of the Corinne Henson, having her second spell at Watford after leaving to play for Charton. She is very confident and composed in possession but also has the pace and power when required to deal with sharp or tall opponents.

Watford Observer: Coral Haines in typically combative midfield actionCoral Haines in typically combative midfield action (Image: Andrew Waller Images)

The way the defensive three played into the likes of the ever-combative Dre Georgiou and Coral Haines meant that Watford could ping the ball around with alacrity, while another Arsenal player on dual registration, Laila Harbert, showed that at just 16 she has all the attributes to enjoy a great future in the game.

The first half was largely one-way traffic and Watford should have been ahead inside 10 minutes when Lucia Leon’s cross from the right was returned back into the centre by Haines. Last week’s two-goal hero Sophie McLean got the ball under control but then had it whipped away from her as she was about to shoot from eight yards.

Ten minutes later most Watford fans would have been poised to celebrate, as Leon’s ball through scythed open the Blackburn defence and Johns ran in behind. It’s a story we’ve seen before this season, only this time when Johns let fly Brooks matched her fiercely-struck shot with a fine sprawling block.

Rovers looked most dangerous when they could get a set play in and around the Watford box, giving them the chance to send their taller defenders forward.

It was that which was to decide the game a minute before the break. Megan Hornby sent a deep corner to the back of the six-yard box and, in a crowd of players, skipper Jade Richards climbed highest to nod a looping header back over keeper Olive Clark and inside the back post – which, unlike at other dead ball situations, did not have a yellow shirt stood by it.

The rain that had made the first half very difficult eased and finally stopped after the break, and Watford were back on the offensive early with Haines curling a 25-yard effort just wide before Georgiou crossed to the near post where Johns saw her toe-poked effort blocked.

Watford Observer: Carly Johns just failed to connect with an early Lucia Leon crossCarly Johns just failed to connect with an early Lucia Leon cross (Image: Andrew Waller Images)

Buoyed by the goal, Blackburn ventured forward more in the second 45 minutes, and Clarke excelled twice in quick succession to keep it at 1-0.

First she held Lauren Thomas’ shot after a clever one-two had released the striker into the box, and then the Welsh international made an excellent block at the feet of Thomas after Hornby had put her free inside the area.

Harbert saw a fiercely-struck effort from distance deflected wide for a corner before Clark sprang away to her left to push a rising shot from Rovers’ sub Lucy Shepherd wide of the target.

With a minute to go Harbert’s through-ball got Johns around the back of the visiting defence but again Brooks denied her with a smart stop to hold the angled shot.

As the game entered five minutes of stoppage time Watford won a free kick on the right. Harbert swung it into the box and Bennett’s clever run enabled her to get between two defenders and meet the ball with a free header. However, although her glancing effort beat Brooks it drifted the wrong side of the back post.

There was still time for the controversy as the referee and her assistant – who would have had a great view – decided a late cross wasn’t controlled by a Blackburn arm and when the final whistle did sound the celebrations on the pitch and around the dug-out from the visitors clearly showed they knew they would be going home with more than they probably deserved.

Watford: Clark; Leon (Palisch 64), Lafayette (Davison 53), McLean (Baptiste 73), Johns, Bennett, Georgiou (Fyfe 64), Harbert, Haines, Reid, Henson. Subs not used: Dowsett, Meiwald, Head, Chandler.