Gianfranco Zola said referee Michael Naylor had no option but to call off Watford’s Boxing Day clash at Bristol City, but felt most disappointment for the Hornets’ travelling supporters.

There had been steady rainfall in the build-up to the game but this became torrential around 30 minutes before the kick off, flooding an increasing portion of the playing surface as each minute passed.

Despite the Ashton Gate groundstaff forking the pitch and using roller mops – and the referee delaying kick off by 15 minutes in the hope the conditions would improve – the battle was lost.

The Watford head coach said: “The pitch was absolutely unplayable so it would have been too risky for the players and also the spectacle for the spectators wouldn’t have been good enough, so I think it was the right decision.

“When we first arrived here, you could see already the pitch was on the edge. It was ok but it had a lot of water as soon as it started raining. When the referee decided to call it off it was unplayable.”

Although the Hornets trained on Christmas Day afternoon before travelling to Bristol yesterday evening, Zola was philosophical about the postponement and said:“This is something that you cannot control. It’s a pity for the supporters because they travelled a long journey on Boxing Day and so the disappointment for more is for them.”

The visiting players went over to the Hornets faithful after the announcement was made, with some sliding in the water while some shirts were also thrown into the crowd. “We are establishing a very good relationship with them,” said Zola, “so it was the minimum we could do to say thank you very much for coming all the way down here and I hope they appreciate it.”

While the outcome to today’s game was both frustrating and disappointing, it does mean Watford have a longer than expected gap between matches ahead of Saturday’s trip to Brighton & Hove Albion.

The Hornets head coach remarked: “It certainly makes a big difference because obviously we are not going to play as many games as we thought in a short period of time, so that will allow me to reconsider my plans and we’ll see what we can do. Obviously it’s going to be difficult tomorrow to train because the conditions, they look like they are bad but we’re going to get organised.”