Two highly debatable decisions from the officials set Watford Women on the road to defeat against Birmingham at St Andrews.

The 5-2 loss was the first time Watford have ended up the wrong side of a heavy scoreline since returning to the Championship, and while they were done no favours at all by the controversial decisions that led to the first two Birmingham goals, they could have few complaints after that.

Conceding from balls into the box – and particularly set plays – is blighting the season and Watford contributed to their own downfall as they once again seemed unable to deal with anything entering their penalty area aerially from the flanks.

Had they not gone on to lose so heavily, then Watford would have had good cause to point to the Birmingham opener probably not having crossed the line, or the incredibly harsh decision to award a penalty for the second.

But while those debatable moments started the slide, what happened after that was not so easy to defend.

However, to put some context on the match, Birmingham’s opening goalscorer, Ivana Fuso, is a Brazilian international, signed for a club-record fee from Manchester United in the summer – an indication, if ever there was one, of the gap in the Championship between a pro club like the Blues, and part-time Watford.

Top scorer Carly Johns did give Watford a glimmer of hope with a goal little more than a minute into the second half but within a quarter of an hour Birmingham were 5-1 up and it was then a case of damage limitation.

It was always going to be a tough test for Watford back in the Championship as a part-time team playing against professional clubs who can dish out sizeable transfer fees and wages.

The upcoming international break will give them time to regroup, reflect and try to plot a path back to winning games and away from the foot of the table.

Jacqui Goldsmid made an earlier than expected return to action in goal after her finger injury, while there were returns to the starting line-up for Abbie Lafayette, Carly Johns and Dre Georgiou, and Anne Meiwald made her first start of the season.

From the outset it was the home side who made the running, and a quick break in the eighth minute created space for Charlie Devlin in the box, but Harley Bennett blocked her shot.

Watford then gave the ball away midway inside their own half and Devlin struck a first-time shot from 25 yards that went just wide.

Lily Agg was the next to try her luck, turning 20 yards out before sending a dipping shot over the target.

On the balance of play it was no surprise that Birmingham went ahead after 22 minutes, but the circumstances around the goal were highly controversial.

Martha Harris hit a deep corner which Fuso met at the back of the six-yard box, steering her header goalwards where Georgiou hooked the ball off the line. The assistant referee, who was 30 yards away, signalled for a goal when subsequent replays suggested the ball didn’t cross the line.

On a rare foray forwards Watford saw Lafayette have a shot saved at the bear post, but it was Goldsmid who was the busier keeper and she made a fine double save to deny Ellie Mason’s 18-yard shot and block Devlin’s follow-up.

The officials then handed the Golden Girls a second blow in the 41st minute. Devlin played a pass towards Libby Smith in the box, but McLean stepped in to challenge. Referee Mr Dawson decided it was a foul though, and awarded a penalty which Agg converted.

Watford were barely over that setback when they went 3-0 down a minute later, and this time it was their own poor defending which cost them.

Harris crossed from way out on the right flank but Watford allowed the ball to go  across the face of goal where Devlin beat Goldsmid with a deflected shot.

Watford Observer: Carl Johns volleys home her fifth goal of the seasonCarl Johns volleys home her fifth goal of the season (Image: Andrew Waller Images)

Just 68 seconds after the restart Watford pulled one back, and it was Johns who started and finished the move.

The striker won the ball back in midfield and slipped it to Coral Haines. She sent Lafayette away down the line and her was cross was met on the half volley by Johns on the penalty spot with a shot that nestled in the bottom-right corner.

The respite was short-lived though as Birmingham restored their three-goal lead in the 52nd minute. Goldsmid stretched for a corner but could only fingertip the ball up in the air and Smith pounced in a crowded goalmouth to force the ball over the line.

It became 5-1 after an hour, and this time it was a type of goal that is being conceded all too often this season.

Quinn took a short corner and floated the ball to the back of the box where Ellie Mason rose highest and headed the ball home.

Four minutes from time there was a fine headed consolation goal for Lucia Leon, her first for the club, when she met Lafayette’s set piece with a firm connection at the near post.

Watford: Goldsmid; Lafayette, Meiwald (Leon ht), McLean, Baptiste (Head 83), Johns, Bennett, Georgiou (Palisch 83), Harbert (Davison 61), Chandler, Haines (Rossiter 83). Subs: Harris, Reid, Henson