Gianfranco Zola rated Watford’s performance in their 4-0 victory at Birmingham City as one of their best of the season, admitting he had doubts beforehand after the Hornets had to shuffle their defensive ranks.

With Joel Ekstrand still ruled out with a knee injury and Tommie Hoban sustaining a recurrence of an ankle problems, the visitors’ defensive options were further limited by a hamstring injury to Fitz Hall which is likely to keep him out of action for at least a couple of weeks.

This meant Marco Cassetti moved back to play on the left side of the central defensive trio alongside Nyron Nosworthy and Lloyd Doyley, but the Hornets produced a generally solid defensive display to finish with a clean sheet alongside Troy Deeney’s brace and singles from Ikechi Anya and Almen Abdi to lift them back up to third in the table.

The Hornets head coach said: “It was a good result and a good performance on a day when we had a few doubts before the game. But the attitude and the performance of the players, they just removed all the doubts and the clouds we had around us. That was very, very important for me.

“We were missing players like Fitz, Joel Ekstrand and also Tommie Hoban and so we had to adapt a little bit. But Marco Cassetti came in [to the defence] and has been excellent today.

“Also we had doubts because the last week in the second half [against Crystal Palace] we dropped the performance too much and we were concerned about our physical condition. Maybe we thought it could have been a difficult moment for us physically wise but that performance today I think it cleared everything out, it was very important.”

Asked if the performance was as good as Watford have produced this season, Zola responded: “I think there were some spells in the game when we were really good. I rate it as one of the best performances considering the difficulties that we had. But I think we’ve played some better games than this.”