Stirring, committed and classy Watford Women claimed a thoroughly-deserved 2-0 win over Birmingham at Grosvenor Vale this afternoon and lifted themselves off the bottom of the Championship table.

It was both a second successive win and clean sheet - plus a first home victory of the season - a trio of positive statistics Damon Lathrope and his side thoroughly deserved after such a passionate and determined display.

And this was against a Birmingham side that came into today’s game on the back of five successive wins, including a cup success against Super League side West Ham.

Back in October, the Blues handed Watford a 5-2 beating at St Andrews and, although they didn’t get the rub of the green that afternoon, Watford still looked some way short of Birmingham.

Not today though. Far from it.

Right from the first kick, Watford were in the faces of the visitors, showing a tenacity and strength that unsettled Birmingham and meant they were never able to settle.

Inside the first minute a ball over the top from Harley Bennett enabled top scorer Carly Johns to get in behind the defence but she took on an early shot and put it over.

However, that was a sign of intent. Lathrope has switched the formation to enable his team to play two up front, and they have clearly decided they are going to have to attack their way out of the relegation places.

Their biggest scare of the first half was when they lingered too long on the ball at the back and Lucy Quinn forced her way into the box, only to be denied by a fine save from Safia Middelton-Patel making her home debut for Watford after joining on loan from Manchester United.

Watford Observer: Abbie Lafayette's free-kick nearly broke the deadlock.Abbie Lafayette's free-kick nearly broke the deadlock. (Image: Andrew Waller Images)

It was 45 minutes of few chances as Watford negated a Birmingham attack that had caused them so much discomfort in the reverse fixture.

Right on the stroke of half-time Abbie Lafayette curled in a free-kick from out on the right, the ball flashed across a crowded goalmouth and somehow ran wide of the back post without anyone getting a touch.

The most demanding period of the game as far as Watford were concerned was the opening 15 minutes of the second half.

Birmingham, perhaps given some harsh words by head coach Darren Carter at half-time, came out and moved up a gear, pinning Watford back.

Substitute Jade Moore headed over from a corner before Middleton-Patel twice saved at point-blank range with her legs following an almighty scramble at a corner.

It was set pieces that were hurting Watford most, but they rose up to the challenge with young England Under-17 international Katie Reid once again looking mature beyond her years in the heart of a defence that stood firm.

Watford Observer: Sophie McLean was excellent in defence.Sophie McLean was excellent in defence. (Image: Andrew Waller Images)

Alongside her Anne Meiwald was solid and dependable while, on the other side, midfielder Sophie McLean once again comfortably slotted into the back three and combined power and calmness when playing out from the back.

Having defended resolutely for the first 15 minutes of the half, it felt like Watford had ridden out the storm and dealt with the best Birmingham could throw at them.

Cue a double substitution in the 68th minute that turned the game.

Carly Johns and Ellie Head had run their hearts out in attack, and Lathrope replaced them with Michelle Agyemang and Bianca Baptiste.

On-loan Arsenal striker Agyemang missed the first half of the season through injury, and once again today she showed why Watford would most likely be safely in mid-table or better had they been able to call upon her services for the entire campaign.

Her physical presence unsettles defenders, her pace and runs in behind are a direct threat, and she is possibly the best finisher in the division, despite only turning 18 yesterday.

The moment she entered the fray, Birmingham had two players following her, and while it did little to stop her, it created space for others to move into.

Agyemang had been on the field just two minutes when she chased down Birmingham defender Gemma Lawley on the left a she received a throw-in, stole the ball and then surged into the box.

Watford Observer: Only three minutes after coming on, Michelle Agyemang fires Watford in front.Only three minutes after coming on, Michelle Agyemang fires Watford in front. (Image: Andrew Waller Images)

Keeper Lucy Thomas came out to narrow the angle but was left rooted to the spot as Agyemang sent a searing drive thundering past her and into the net.

Baptiste was having plenty of joy alongside her, and the tiring Birmingham defence struggled to contain her as she muscled her way through challenges.

Watford were now brimming with confidence, and in the 80th minute Agyemang struck again to kill the game off.

This time it was Neve Herron who tried to shield the ball as the Watford striker closed in on her. Agyemang was simply too strong and determined, robbing the ball and then accelerating away into the box.

Again Thomas came off her line and although this time she got something on Agyemang’s shot, it was too powerful and the ball skipped past the keeper and nestled inside the far post.

Agyemang came close to completing an outrageous hat-trick, first nicking the ball away again from Lawley before hitting an early 20-yard shot that Thomas held, and then in stoppage time she won a free-kick just outside the box and curled a low effort round the wall before Thomas dived to tip it wide.

However, the points were safely in the bag and they were even more precious when looking at other results at the foot of the table.

Watford Observer:

Lewes were leading for a long time away to league leaders Charlton and drew 1-1, while Reading beat second-placed Sunderland 1-0.

London City lost 1-0 at home to Blackburn, and all that combined means Watford climb to 11th, two points ahead of Lewes who have a game in hand.

They are now only in the relegation zone on goal difference, as they are level on points with London City but are a goal worse off.

Watford: Middleton-Patel; Lafayette, Fleming, Meiwald, McLean, Johns (Baptiste 68), Head (Agyemang 68), Bennett, Georgiou (Wilson 87), Haines (Rossiter 49), Reid. Subs not used: Goldsmid, Leon, Palisch, Fyfe, Brown.