Mick McCarthy felt Luke Hyam’s header against the crossbar and Ipswich Town’s poor marking for Watford’s second goal were pivotal to his side’s defeat at Vicarage Road.

But for a fine save from Manuel Almunia and the intervention of the woodwork, the Tractor Boys would have gone in front after Anthony Wordsworth cancelled out Albert Riera’s opener. Within five minutes of that opportunity, the visitors had effectively lost the game after being hit by a quick-fire double from Gabriele Angella and Lewis McGugan.

The straight-talking Yorkshire boss said: “I think that [the crossbar] saved the game for them and then poor marking from a free-kick. It was a great delivery from them, it was good movement and a good header but nowhere near should he get on the end of it because it should have been stopped.”

Reflecting on the game, McCarthy said: “I thought our boys were fabulous in the first half. I thought we started the first half well, I think they scored with their first attempt and that was poor. Whenever you score and it’s a great goal, they’ll think it is, it was awful that we allowed him [Riera] on the inside to shoot, that’s not like us. But I thought we were excellent in the first half.

“The second half, I don’t think we’ve let them off the hook, I think we’ve let all the other teams off the hook as well by conceding the goal we have for the second. Three minutes after we’ve hit the crossbar we’re 3-1 down.”

The defeat leaves Ipswich eighth in the table, four points ahead of the Hornets having played a game more.

Asked about the effect the result had on his side’s play-off hopes, McCarthy said: “You have to look after your own result, that’s my mantra. Everybody else can do whatever they want. If we win, there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

“If we’d have won today everyone would have been thinking [great] but who knows, we could win today and got slapped on Monday, I’ve no idea. And if you ask me how it’s going to pan out, I haven’t got a clue. I thought our performance today, up until the second goal, I thought we were outstanding.”