A first clean sheet of the season and a point to end a run of six straight defeats were Watford Women’s rewards for a battling display in a 0-0 draw away at Reading.

It was far from a classic but having shipped 21 goals so far this season the Hornets would have been pleased with the shut-out.

As the game wore on Watford clearly built on the more solid feel at the back and showed glimpses up front of being able to pinch a win.

It wasn’t to be, but with Reading being the team immediately above Watford in the Championship table, it was important not to lose any more ground either.

Charlotte Fleming made her full debut in midfield and it was clear to see what she adds to the team. Strong and decisive in the tackle, she breaks play up and then makes good use of the ball.

However, even her efforts and the industry of the ever hard-working Bianca Baptiste in attack could not bring much life to a subdued first half.

Watford were solid and organised, clearly keen to stem the flow of goals conceded, and Reading rarely found a way through.

Following an uneventful and shot-shy opening, it was Jacqui Goldsmid who was the first of the keepers called into action after 18 minutes, dropping to hold a 20-yard shot from Tia Primmer after Sanne Troelsgaard had laid the ball into her path.

Five minutes later a short corner saw Rachel Dugdale send a low shot towards the near post where a combination of Goldsmid and Fleming bundled the ball round the near post.

Baptiste had Watford’s first effort of the game on the half-hour mark, taking the ball with her back to goal before turning and shooting over the bar.

Soon after Primmer broke through the inside-right channel but with Megan Chandler closing her down she shot early from the corner of the box and Goldsmid saved.

The Watford keeper should probably have been given no chance when Freya Meadows-Tuson crossed from the right for Charlie Estcourt but the striker got it all wrong when unmarked and ended up doing little more than passing the ball back.

In first-half stoppage-time Baptiste broke away through the centre, checked inside a tackle and shot from 20 yards but Emily Orman was right behind it and held comfortably.

Right on the half-time whistle Lauren Wade centred but Estcourt sent her header from a good position over the crossbar.

Keeper Goldsmid has been thrust back into action recently following the recalling of on-loan Liv Clark, and her performances have belied the fact she had probably expected to be sidelined for a little longer following her finger injury.

She’s made some good saves in every game, but the one she pulled off five minutes after the restart was right out of the top drawer.

A ball into the box fell perfectly for Primmer who was 10 yards out and central. The Watford keeper flew off her line and made a superb close-range block, and then did enough to force Primmer to fire the loose ball wide.

The Hornets had a big chance in the 64th minute. Corinne Henson cut the ball back from the left, Carly Johns got a touch and the ball broke for Lucia Leon. She struck her shot well enough and it was goalbound, but took a nick off a Reading defender and spun wide of the goal.

Having gone past the hour-mark without conceding for the first time this season, there was obvious increased confidence coursing through the veins of the players, and they began to spray the ball around with clear belief.

It was the home side who were having to rely on break-aways while the Hornets spent more and more time on the front foot.

However, they still had to be careful and it needed a great sliding intervention from Haines to stop Trimmer getting on the end of an 82nd-minute cross.

Watford Women: Goldsmid; Leon, Lafayette, Fleming, McLean, Baptiste (Fyfe 84), Johns, Bennett, Palisch (Haines 62), Chandler, Henson. Subs: Harris, Meiwald, Davison, Rossiter, Head, Georgiou, Reid