Each of the last three goals Watford Women have conceded have come directly from crosses into the box, and head coach Damon Lathrope knows his side have to improve in defending those situations.

Sunderland were a goal up after only two minutes on Sunday when they scored with a header from a free kick, and when you’re playing away to a team with promotion aspirations you cannot afford to go behind so early.

“It was a really cheap goal to concede,” Lathrope said.

“For all the good football we play and our good passing, you have got to defend your box. It’s where games are won and lost.

“We work hard on set pieces and it’s an area we put a lot of work into. We need to show more discipline and not give cheap set pieces away which allows teams to then stick the ball in dangerous areas.

“Games are ultimately won and lost in both boxes. How well you defend yours, and how well you attack theirs, is probably going to win or lose you games.

“Defending crosses is, for sure, an area we will continue to work on. We’re not the biggest of teams and we’re not going to be a team that plays for set pieces, but we have to make sure they’re not going to cost us either.

“We did it well in the first two or three games of the season, and we need to get back to that.”

Although they reacted well to being 2-0 down midway through the first half, it wasn’t the best performance of the season from the Golden Girls.

“My initial reflection was we weren’t good enough and didn’t deserve anything because we didn’t perform to the levels we know we can,” the head coach admitted.

“As a group we’re really disappointed we didn’t do the basics as well as we needed to in order to take points in this league, against a team who pride themselves on doing the basics and the non-negotiables really well.

“In possession we went a little bit too long too much from deep, which is against our principals and we need to learn from that.

“We also have to make sure we run harder than our opponents. We always say to the group we know we are up against it when it comes to the physical element of the game, but we can’t allow our opponents to impose their physicality on us.

“We have to at least match them, which then means our control and our footballing ability have the impact that we want.”

Watford had the lion’s share of possession in the second half of the game, but didn’t turn that into many chances.

“When you’re 2-0 down you want to have a go, and that wasn’t through lack of trying from the players,” said Lathrope.

“Sunderland are a very resolute side who had only conceded one goal in four games, and it wasn’t going to be easy.

“We had a very, very good chance with about 20 minutes to go where, if we’d hit the net, it really would have put pressure on Sunderland. That was a key moment for me, as if we scored it then I really felt we were in the ascendancy.”