High balls into the box were the undoing of Watford Women again as they lost 2-1 away at Sunderland this afternoon.

They were a goal down after just two minutes and it had a very similar feel about it to the one that gave Blackburn the three points a fortnight ago.

The second goal, midway through the first, also came as a result of ball lofted into the area – it’s something that physically bigger teams are always likely to try, but also a tactic Damon Lathrope and his side have to find a way of managing.

When the ball was on the deck, Watford were more than a match for their hosts as their brand of patient, passing football meant they enjoyed good spells of possession, particularly before the break.

The second half was somewhat sterile, with Sunderland happy to stick rather than twist, getting players behind the ball and challenging Watford to find a way through.

Had substitute Bianca Baptiste taken the clear-cut chance she had with more than 20 minutes to go then the momentum may well have swung the way of the Golden Girls.

As it was they didn’t find the net until the first minute of stoppage time – a fourth of the season for Carly Johns – and that left them chasing the game with the clock very much against them.

The long away trip got off to a nightmare start as, after only two minutes, Katie Kitching swung over a free-kick from the right flank and Natasha Fenton climbed well to send a looping header into the back of the net.

Watford rallied well and Lucia Leon shot over the top after a clever one-two with Laila Herbert and then Harley Bennett’s deep cross from the right forced home keeper Claudia Moan to tip over the bar.

Jenna Dear then went close with an acrobatic bicycle kick before Johns got on the end of Dre Georgiou’s pass but saw Moan dash off her line to block the shot.

The home side extended their lead in the 21st minute. Louise Griffiths crossed from the left, the Watford defence didn’t clear and Mary McAteer prodded the ball home at the near post.

After that Georgiou sent a shot just over the bar, Leon saw her header tipped away by Moan and, from the resultant corner, Johns gathered the ball and fired just over the bar.

The half ended with Watford on the front foot, and they made two changes with both skipper Megan Chandler and forward Annie Rossiter returning after injury lay-offs.

Chandler added calm authority at the back, and made one superb sliding tackle to deny a clear chance, while Rossiter’s quick feet and willingness to run at the defence added an extra dimension going forward.

However, with a two-goal cushion the home side were quite happy to sit back and absorb Watford’s attempts to break through, and the game was devoid of chances.

That was until the 67th minute when Katie’s Reid excellent-through ball split the Sunderland defence and Baptiste’s sublime first touch got her two yards in behind.

Moan had to come and narrow the angle and Baptiste went for power – the shot beat the keeper but also went the wrong side of the right-hand upright.

A minute into stoppage time Watford did get one back when substitute Ellie Head slipped a pass to her right and Johns calmly side-stepped a sliding challenge before giving Moan the eyes and rolling a shot past her into the corner.

It was another game where Watford showed they are very able to compete at this higher level, but they will also know that performances and chances have to begin to be converted into goals and points.

Watford Women: Clark; Leon (Head 80), McLean (Baptiste 61), Johns, Bennett, Georgiou (Rossiter ht), Harbert, Fyfe (Lafayette 55), Haines (Palisch 80), Reid, Henson (Chandler ht). Sub not used: Dowsett