Two goals in a minute midway through the second half condemned Watford Women to a 3-1 defeat at Vicarage Road that sent them bottom of the Championship table.

With Lewes beating London City, they leapfrogged over the Hornets who are now five points behind 10th-placed Reading in the 12-team league.

The Hornets certainly had their moments and responded well to going behind early on to have the better of things either side of half time.

Indeed, had Carly Johns’ effort in first-half stoppage time gone in rather than be cleared off the line, the boost of an interval lead might just have done the trick.

As it was, United absorbed Watford’s pressure in the first quarter-hour of the second half and then hit them with a classic double-blow on the break to effectively kill the game off.

A noisy and excited crowd of 1,872 certainly appreciated the effort and spirit that Watford showed, but unfortunately while those are admirable characteristics, they don’t earn any points in the table.

It was the Blades who started the game more brightly and in the seventh minute a clever quick throw released Bex Rayner in the box but her low shot was held by Jacqui Goldsmid.

Four minutes later hesitation at the back allowed Isobel Goodwin to run free in the area but, as she was bearing down on goal, captain Megan Chandler slid in to turn the ball behind.

However, from the resultant corner Watford’s old nemesis – defending balls into the box – returned to haunt them as Jodie Hutton’s fiercely-struck set piece curled into the box and nestled inside the far post.

Goldsmid came to the rescue when Ella Kinzett got in behind the defence, standing strong to parry her well-struck shot.

It took Watford time to grow into the game, and not helped by conceding the early goal it took them until midway into the half to truly settle.

However, once they did, they drew level in the 25th minute with a very well-worked set piece.

Abbie Lafayette curled a free-kick away from the keeper and towards the back post where Harley Bennett met it perfectly to score with a downward header, her first goal for the Hornets since joining from London City in the summer.

Five minutes before the break Bianca Baptiste did well to win a ball over the top down the left. She checked back inside and then flashed an angled shot across the face of goal and wide of the back post.

A minute into stoppage time Watford came within inches of going ahead. Chandler’s through-ball was flicked on by Baptiste and Johns raced forward and beat the advancing Eleanor Heeps to it.

The striker prodded the ball past the keeper on the edge of the box and it was rolling towards the empty net until defender Tara Bourne made up ground to reach it and knock it round the post.

Seconds into the second half Alli Palisch released Baptiste and she steadied herself before checking inside and curling an effort wide of the back post.

The Hornets had more of the ball in the early stages of the second half and enjoyed lengthy spells in the United half but their failure to create much always left at risk of the counter.

The warning signs were there in the 65th minute the visitors won the ball midway inside the Watford half and moved it left to Hutton who sent a rising effort over the target.

Four minutes after that United were more clinical and went ahead as Goodwin was played in through the middle and she clipped a shot over the advancing Goldsmid and inside the right-hand upright.

A minute later it was 3-1 and in rather similar fashion as United played the ball down the inside-right channel and Goodwin ran onto it before lashing a low angled shot past Goldsmid.

Watford tried to respond and substitute Coral Haines tried her luck from 25 yards but Heeps was behind it all the way, and the game petered out as United were happy to get bodies behind the ball and protect their two-goal cushion.

Watford: Goldsmid; Leon, Lafayette, Fleming (Haines 70), McLean (Fyfe 77), Baptiste, Johns, Bennett, Chandler, Palisch (Harbert 53), Henson (Davison 77). Subs: Harris, Meiwald, Head, Georgiou, Haines, Reid