Despite running third place Sheffield United all the way, the Bees fell short at The Hive London, on a wintery afternoon in the capital.
After a cagey start to proceedings, it was the Blades who took the lead in fortunate circumstances as a cut back from Leandra Little deflected off a Bees defender before trickling into the net.
The teams continued to do battle, with the Bees showing plenty of endeavour in the opening half-hour without really threatening an equalising goal. They did have shouts of a penalty waved away by the referee after it appeared that an Amelia Hazard effort struck the hand of a United defender.
The visitors had chances of their own through former Bee Katie Wilkinson, but she couldn’t get her effort from eight yards out on target. However, it was the Blades who doubled their advantage after a swift counter-attack was tucked away by Courtney Sweetman-Kirk.
There was controversy just minutes after the goal, as already booked, Ocean Rolandsen committed another foul, but it wasn’t punished with a second yellow card.
Despair turned to joy for Lee Burch’s side five minutes before the break, as Sophie McLean tucked the ball home after Tricia Gould forced the Blades ‘keeper into a great save. It was a second goal of the season for McLean, who had put the Bees right back in the game on the stroke of half time.
After the break, the Bees made the worst possible start to the second half, as Naomi Hartley found a great strike from the edge of the box, as the Bees failed to clear their lines from a corner kick.
But just six minutes later, Burch’s side clawed themselves back into the game, as a well worked move was slotted home by Welsh international Charlie Estcourt. It sprung the Bees back into life, as a priceless point looked to be on the cards with half hour left on the watch.
The Bees continued to pressure the Blades throughout the second half, with the visitors having ‘keeper Fran Kitching to thank as she made a great diving save to parry away the impressive Sophie Quirk’s curling effort.
Burch opted to bring on debutants Mia Cruickshank and Helen Ward in an attempt to snatch an equaliser, but the Bees came up against a stern Blades backline who defended resolutely going into the final 10 minutes.
The Bees had a crucial set-piece as the game ticked into added time, but Kitching again would be the Blades saviour as she punched the danger clear. From the resulting counter-attack, Georgia Robert committed a foul, already on a yellow, the Bees number five was shown a red card and we finished the match with 10 players.
There was a sucker punch fourth goal for the Blades in the dying embers as well, as Wilkinson stepped up to cooly convert a penalty kick with pretty much the last kick of the match.
It was cruel on the Bees, who will be left frustrated with the manner of the goals they conceded in an otherwise even contest at The Hive London.
Burch’s side have a London derby to contend with up next as they travel to Hayes Lane to take on Crystal Palace.