Watford manager Nigel Pearson on Sunday warned his side of the perils of relegation if they do not stop “gifting” points after a 3-1 home defeat by Southampton.
Danny Ings produced two fine finishes to further his case for the Premier League Golden Boot as Saints realistically secured their top-flight status for another season by reaching 40 points.
A bad day for the Hornets began before kickoff when three players were excluded from Pearson’s squad for breaching COVID-19 protocols.
Watford said that Andre Gray, Nathaniel Chalobah and Domingos Quina were not included to protect “the health and safety of all players, staff and officials,” after Gray hosted a birthday party on Friday last week with more than the permitted six people present.
On the field, Pearson’s men have also had a poor start to the Premier League resumption, with just one point from their first three games, leaving them just a point above the relegation zone.
“We were second best for too long,” Pearson said. “You can’t concede goals like gifts to your opponents, it makes the job even harder.”
Watford are the only side this season to beat champions Liverpool in the Premier League and they also beat Manchester United early in Pearson’s reign after he took charge in December last year.
With bottom-of-the-table Norwich City, Newcastle United and fellow strugglers West Ham United to come in three of his side’s next four games, Pearson remains confident Watford would be safe if they find their best form.
“We are not achieving the types of performances we know we are capable of,” he said. “We have games left where it is in our own hands, where we can assure our own future in the Premier League.”
Ings brilliantly made space for himself on the edge of the penalty area before curling into the far corner on 16 minutes to give Saints a deserved first-half lead.
Watford gave themselves a mountain to climb when Ben Foster’s poor throw was pounced upon by Ings to drill home his 18th Premier League goal of the season and move within one of Jamie Vardy as the league’s top scorer.
“I just want to score as many goals as I can,” Ings said on his chances of winning the Golden Boot.
Centerback Jan Bednarek’s own-goal briefly gave the hosts hope of a comeback, but Southampton restored their two-goal advantage within three minutes when James Ward-Prowse curled a free-kick into the top corner.
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