Watford (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Danny Ings produced two fine finishes to further his case for the Premier League Golden Boot as Southampton kept Watford poised perilously above the relegation zone with a 3-1 win at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

A bad day for the Hornets began before kick-off when three players were excluded from Nigel Pearson’s squad for breaching coronavirus protocols.

Watford said 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 with more than the permitted six people present.

On the field, Pearson’s men have also had a poor start to the Premier League restart with just one point from their first three games leaving them still just a point above the drop zone.

Ings could have been representing England this month at Euro 2020 had the coronavirus pandemic not delayed that tournament for a year, but he has picked up where he left off before the three-month stoppage.

The former Liverpool forward brilliantly made space for himself on the edge of the box before curling into the far corner on 16 minutes to give Saints a deserved first-half lead.

Watford improved after the break, but 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 top scorer in the division.

Jan Bednarek’s own goal briefly gave the hosts hope of a comeback.

However, Southampton restored their two-goal advantage within three minutes as James Ward-Prowse curled a brilliant free-kick into the top corner to move the visitors onto 40 points and surely secure their top-flight status for another season.