Roy Hodgson hailed his charges despite Tuesday night’s 1-0 defeat at West Ham United under the lights, with the Watford boss content that each of his players had put 100 per cent effort into the hard-fought encounter.
Jarrod Bowen’s deflected strike midway through the second half earned the Hammers the spoils at the London Stadium, though the Hornets threatened their Champions League-chasing opponents on several occasions and could easily have emerged victorious on another day.
While the likes of Ben Foster and Hassane Kamara impressed at the bottom end of the pitch, Joshua King and Emmanuel Dennis were lively up front, and Hodgson believes there were plenty of signs of encouragement to take away.
“It’s a harsh way to lose the game with such a fierce deflection, but we mustn’t feel sorry for ourselves,” he said. “I can’t ask for more than what the players put in tonight.
“It was an unfortunate goal and up until that point I thought the game was evenly poised and that we’d been defending very well. It was hard for us after that because we had to go in search of an equaliser, but overall I’m pleased with what I saw tonight.
“It’s important not to forget we were playing a team with a lot of confidence. We have to dust ourselves down, accept it wasn’t our night, and be happy with the fact I can already see our stamp on the team.”
A midweek clash in the capital marked Hodgson’s second match in charge of the Golden Boys, and with just one goal conceded so far he is buoyed by the strength of the defensive unit under his tutelage.
While the 74-year-old highlighted the impact of some of Watford’s January additions, he also recognised the value of having Dennis back at his disposal following suspension, and thinks the Nigerian together with the soon-to-be-returning AFCON winner Ismaïla Sarr can help fire the club to Premier League safety.
He said: “Samir and Kamara have been really important for us as new additions. I cringe when I hear people saying you’ve been working hard on defence because all teams do, but I’m happy with the result of the work we’ve been doing.
“But I know we’re not only going to win games by doing the defensive side of things better. We need to improve at both sides of the game. It was good to have Dennis back and we’ll have Sarr back soon as well, who’s going to be important.
“I thought we had attacking threat today and I’m not concerned about that end of the field. Perhaps we didn't produce that golden goal chance, but I'm sure we will as we work more.”
A home clash against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (February 12, 3pm) offers Watford a quick chance to bounce back from defeat, and Hodgson is hopeful of earning a first win of 2022 that could provide vital momentum in the relegation fight.
He added: “I’ve been in equally bad positions before as a manager and we have to look at the players. They’ve shown they care, and that’s really important.
“They worked hard tonight physically and on the principles we’re trying to encourage. They’ve got to maintain that, but I do believe we have lots of positives to take into Saturday, and ultimately enough to keep ourselves safe.”