Watford Ladies were defeated 3-1 at home by title contenders Reading FC Women, but the performance from the Lady Hornets was an encouraging one.
Melissa Fletcher and Helen Ward had put the visitors two goals ahead, however Watford remained competitive throughout and pulled one back through an Ellie Mason penalty.
A fine strike from Rachel Rowe sealed the victory and there was to be even better news for Reading after the game, as Yeovil’s failure to win secured promotion to WSL1 for the Royals.
After defeating London Bees last time out,Watford manager John Salomon unsurprisingly named the same starting 11.
It didn’t take long for the first shot on target; Tricia Gould had impressed last week and called opposition goalkeeper Grace Moloney into action after just 11 seconds, testing her with a long-range effort.
Tackles were flying in during the opening quarter of an hour, with neither team shying away from that part of the game. One of those tough challenges resulted in a Reading free-kick, which led to the opening goal of the match.
The ball was delivered into the box from around 40-yards out, finding Fletcher, who volleyed home to put her side 1-0 up. Despite protests from Watford players regarding a push, the goal stood.
It would have been two if not for a smart bit of keeping from Shayla Burgess. Lois Roche looked to have picked her spot perfectly but was stopped by a superb diving save.
Action then switched to the other end. Mason almost managed to take advantage of a poor back pass but Moloney just about got there first, clattering the forward in the process.
The final action of the first half saw Burgess produce another good stop, coming out to the edge of her area to stop Ward from grabbing a second.
Watford’s task was made tougher early on in the second half as Ward this time managed to get on the scoresheet. Finding space in the six-yard box, her shot hit the far post and went in to make it 2-0.
Reading’s defence was proving tough to breach. Some good footwork from Gould created a chance, Amber Tullett pushed on from the left-back position and fired a shot into the side netting.
The next opportunity fell to another marauding full-back, the other side in both senses, as right-back Rebecca Jane stung Burgess’ palms with a powerful effort.
While unlikely to appear on any highlight reels, a fantastic bit of defending from Nicole Pepper on the cover helped prevent a clear cut chance for the visitors.
It would prove crucial as a minute later, Watford were awarded a penalty. Moloney appeared to get the ball when tackling Mason in the box, but the referee thought otherwise, pointing to the spot.
The same two players faced each other again from 12 yards. Moloney got a hand to it but Mason’s penalty was too good, pulling it back to 2-1.
Despite understandable grievances, the Royals managed to hit back immediately. Rowe was afforded space from distance and restored the two goal advantage with a great strike past Burgess.
Gould nearly made it a frenetic finish in stoppage time but her attempt from distance was tipped over the bar by Moloney.
The full-time whistle went, with Reading attaining what proved to be a crucial three points. However, they were forced to work hard for it over the entire 90 minutes by all of those in a yellow shirt.
Watford: S Burgess, Pepper, Robe, M Burgess, Tullett, Green (Heaslip 85), Donnelly (Read 56), Nuttall, Farrow (Fatuga-Dada 65), Gould, Mason.
Goal: Mason (80 – Pen).
Yellow Card: Green (15).