It was an afternoon to forget for Watford Women as head coach Damon Lathrope was sent off and his side were beaten 2-0 at home to a Southampton team reduced to 10 players a minute into the second half.

It was a third straight defeat for Watford who, as a result, drop into the bottom two of the Championship.

Lathrope was shown two yellow cards in the latter part of the second half, on both occasions apparently for things he said in his technical area but within earshot of the fourth official, who on both occasions called the referee over.

He may well have been questioning some of Saints’ efforts to run the clock down during the second half as they held onto their 1-0 lead following the dismissal of central defender Milly Mott for a clear tug on striker Carly Johns, who had turned her and was breaking into the box.

Nonetheless, referee Ffion Eade did add seven minutes of stoppage time on though, to be fair, it could have been any amount of time as Watford seldom looked like drawing level despite having the  numerical advantage.

That Southampton broke away right at the very end to make it 2-0 was largely academic, and the victory took them to the top of the Championship table.

Watford just never got going. In the first two thirds of the pitch they moved the ball around with fluency and confidence, but once they entered into the final third they seemed to run out ideas.

There was also a lack of quality about their attacking work. Far too often promising positions melted away on the back of a poor final ball or bad decision.

Apart from one prolonged goalmouth scramble with 15 minutes to go, the Saints defence were just not tested enough. Despite having the extra player, Watford didn’t stretch the game well enough and as a consequence the visitors didn’t have to do as much running and chasing as required to expose the gaps created by having 10 tired players.

Lathrope may have known it was not going to be his day well before kick-off. First-choice keeper Liv Clarke was recalled from her loan by parent club Bristol City on Friday and, with Watford’s second-choice Jacqui Goldsmid still out with a hand injury, he had to field goalkeeping coach Sophie Harris between the posts with England Under-17 international Rebekah Dowsett on the bench.

That now creates a longer-term problem for Lathrope. He can’t sign a new keeper until January, even on loan. If he could find a free agent then that would be a possibility, but he spent all weekend trying to do that without success.

All in all, it’s been a few days the head coach and his team will want to put behind them.

They conceded the only goal of the game after 18 minutes at Grosvenor Vale when Molly Pike met a cross with a shot that crashed back off the bar, and Sophia Pharoah reacted first to volley the loose ball home.

It could have been worse as Emily Kraft was sent clean through and steered a low shot beyond Harris, only to see the ball hit the base of the post and run to safety.

Watford had created little of note, but their chances of getting something from the game increased within seconds of the start of the second half as Johns was breaking onto a through-ball but was hauled down by Mott, who was sent off.

Coral Haines curled the resultant free-kick towards the top corner, but Saints keeper Kayla Rendell saved well.

The visitors quickly made changes and regrouped, and the game became a case of them getting bodies behind the ball and choking the life out of Watford’s efforts to make progress in the attacking third.

Gemma Davison sent a corner right across the face of goal in the 68th minute and shortly afterwards it was her free kick that was knocked up in the air leading to an almighty scramble in the penalty area.

Claims for handball were waved away and eventually Haines struck a low shot from the edge of the box which Rendell held well.

Southampton were happy to counter attack, and one break earned them a free kick which Paige Peake guided towards the far corner, only to see Harris spring away to her right and palm it around the post.

Harley Bennett fired wide from 30 yards and Davison cut in from the flank and had a shot saved, but there just wasn’t enough asked of the visitors’ defence, and in the seventh minute of stoppage time Pike was sent clean through as Watford were caught pushing up and she guided a low shot past the advancing Harris.

Watford: Harris; Leon (Lafayette 68), McLean, Johns, Rossiter (Davison 54), Head (Georgiou 68), Bennett, Harbert, Chandler, Haines, Reid (Henson ht). Subs not used: Dowsett, Meiwald, Palisch