Striker Danny Ings is just one goal off the pace in the race to be Premier League golden boot after he netted twice in Southampton’s 3-1 victory at lowly Watford.
Ings struck in each half to reach 18 league goals and move just one behind top scorer Jamie Vardy, who is enduring a drought after streaking clear for Leicester City earlier this season.
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl backed Ings to continue his goalscoring form in their final matches.
“Nobody will deny how important a player he is for us,” Hasenhuttl said. “Everything is possible. We will play with him in the last six games, and if he gets a chance, you see how fantastic his finishing is.
“It’s definitely a sort of outrageous quality he has and when we scores it is fantastic.”
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Southampton moved up one place to 13th and well clear of the relegation zone while 16th-place Watford remained one point above the drop zone with six games left.
The fleet-footed Ings is enjoying the best season of his career and got his first goal in the 16th minute.
He collected a pass from William Smallbone some 30 metres out, advanced past two players and curled a shot into the bottom right corner from just outside the penalty area.
Ings made it 2-0 in the 70th, finding space in the right side of the penalty area before clipping a low shot which deflected off defender Craig Dawson and went into the bottom left corner.
Watford were given a a lifeline in the 79th with an own goal from defender Jan Bednarek but three minutes later James Ward-Prowse curled a fine free kick into the top left corner to seal the result.
Watford’s preparations for the match were rocked by an off-field issue. Manager Nigel Pearson dropped Andre Gray, Nathaniel Chalobah and Domingos Quina with the club posting on Twitter that it was “to ensure the health and safety of all players, staff and officials at today’s game” amid the coronavirus pandemic. It came after a newspaper report claimed Gray had hosted a party at his house for about 20 people on Friday.