A second-half full of fight and character after a sub-standard opening 45 minutes was the positive that Watford Women assistant coach Matt Bevans took away from the 5-2 defeat at Birmingham City on Sunday.

Although they were partly undone by two highly debatable decisions by the officials, Watford were also well below their usual standards and trailed 3-0 at the break.

The second half was far more even but the damage had been done in the first period.

“We’re really disappointed with the first-half performance today,” Bevans admitted.

“We don’t want to make excuses because we know we can be better. We know defending crosses and corners is an area we can improve upon.

“But that header for their first goal didn’t go in. That puts us on the back foot.

“Having said that, we still need to be making first contact when the ball comes into the box, and that’s not due to the officials.

“The luck isn’t with us really at the moment, and we have to keep working as hard as we can, which to be fair to them the girls always do.

“As coaches, we have to take responsibility because we know defending crosses is an area that we have to improve upon, and we have to find ways to get better.”

Bevans refused to point the finger at the two decisions that helped Birmingham on their way to a 2-0 lead.

“Regardless of the decisions, we still didn’t reach our own levels in the first half,” he said.

“For 20 minutes we were okay. They had more of the ball but they weren’t really hurting us, and then we get undone by a set piece again.

“We can’t control the decisions, what we can control is the level of our own performances.”

The assistant coach said the players were told the coaching team would be looking for a reaction after the disappointing first half, and they got one.

“We were brutally honest with the group at half-time, and they came out and responded in the exact way we wanted them to respond,” said Bevans.

“We got a goal back and absolutely at that point we thought there was a route back into the game for us.

“There wasn’t, but what we want to take away from the game is the second-half performance.

“You have to take positives and in the second half there were some, because the players worked as hard as they could.

“They showed the quality we know they’ve got and that we see every week in training.

“The group worked so hard in the second half, and we said that to them at the end.

“We spend more time together than most of us do with our families, so you have to fight for each other and stick in there.

“That will hold us in good stead come the end of the season.”