LONDON (Reuters) - Watford manager Nigel Pearson said he would wait for the facts before commenting on the absence of Andre Gray, Domingos Quina and Nathaniel Chalobah for his struggling team's 3-1 home defeat by Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday.
It looked like a good opportunity for Pearson's side to give themselves some breathing space in the relegation fight but instead they find themselves one point above the bottom three.
They have also played a game more than West Ham United and Bournemouth who are just below them on 27 points from 31 games.
Watford's preparation was hardly helped when Gray, Chalobah and Quina were all omitted from the squad as a "precautionary measure" after British media reported that striker Gray had breached coronavirus lockdown rules by holding a birthday party at his home, with Quina also pictured at the gathering.
A statement from the club said Pearson had dropped the trio from the squad to ensure "the health and safety of all players, staff and officials at today's game."
Pearson will no doubt be furious that he was deprived of three players for such a crucial fixture, but preferred to focus on the efforts of the players that were on the pitch.
"I'm looking more at the performance and really what happened to put us in the situation that we're in today and that is again fighting for our lives because we've not found the performance levels that I would expect from us," Pearson said.
His side have managed one point from their three games since the season resumed after a three-month stoppage.
"Again, we made too many unforced errors and made mistakes for the goals and gave ourselves far too much to do and it's disappointing for sure," he added.
Southampton defender Jan Bednarek's own goal looked to have given Watford hope late on after a Danny Ings double for Saints but James Ward-Prowse sealed the points for the visitors.
"We've not looked as cohesive as a unit as we have done in other games as well, so it's disappointing because today was an opportunity for us to add to our points tally," said Pearson.
"We have games left in which it is in our own hands to make sure we secure our future in the Premier League. No one is going to do it for us."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)