By Kevin Affleck
They came to pay tribute to two of Watford's greats, but it was one of the club's most recent managers who will take most satisfaction from this one.
Sean Dyche loves nothing more than to put one over his former club and he did a job on the Hornets for the second season, spoiling the game and turning it into an arm wrestle, a test of wills and mental fortitude as much as footballing ability. The Clarets’ approach might not be pretty and to everyone’s taste, but it’s mightily effective.
The only positive to take was at least this time Dyche didn't leave celebrating a win, unlike last season when the Clarets plundered the points with two goals in three sickening minutes. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the collective growth of this Watford team that they managed to grind out a point this time and didn’t fold amid Burnley’s physical examination. They knew they were well and truly in a game and had to scrap, fight and battle for everything at Vicarage Road. There will be a few bumps and bruises after this one, and a damaged hamstring sustained by Kiko Femenía by the looks of it.
Aside from brief spells at the beginning and end of the first half and another around the hour mark after Isaac Success charged on, the Hornets didn’t really get going and a point was the most they deserved. Burnley created the better chances, posed the greater threat and Ben Foster was easily the busier of the two keepers. Once the disappointment of not winning subsides – you always expect your team to win at home – the fact the Hornets have taken four points off the Clarets this season should be celebrated. Let’s also not forget it is also only one defeat in eight for Hornets and that’s never a bad place to be.
Inspired by the moving pre kick-off tributes to late Watford greats Graham Taylor and Duncan Welbourne, the Hornets made a storming start. Gerard Deulofeu had his customary golden chance early on, and then Ken Sema thrashed a leg at another presentable chance. Troy Deeney fashioned both openings and was at the heart of everything the home side did well early on.
But Burnley then started to take a vice-like grip on proceedings and turned it into the sort of scrappy and unstructured game that Dyche likes so much. The Hornets could just not get any rhythm, they couldn’t pass their way through the thirds and James Tarkowski was gobbling up everything that went long to Deeney. It was a tough watch at times.
Burnley started getting the ball wide and into the box and it took a last-ditch tackle from Adrian Mariappa to deny Ashley Barnes as he was about to pull the trigger, and then Foster made a reactionary save to deny the striker’s header from an Ashley Westwood cross. It was nearly all Burnley from an attacking sense and Barnes will wonder how he didn't find the target let alone score after being gift-wrapped a golden chance by a mis-directed header from Mariappa on 39 minutes.
The Hornets did manage to finish the half as they began it with a couple of chances. Deulofeu tried his luck from distance and then Deeney forced the save of the match from Tom Heaton after connecting sweetly with a cross from Femenía. But, in-between Watford’s chances, Burnley had been the more likely side to score and Gracia will have needed to plug a few gaps at the break.
The interval did little to stop Burnley’s momentum, though. Phil Bardsley flashed one dangerously across the face of goal after just a couple of minutes, and then Foster had to claw one away to deny Hendrick at the far post. Burnley were really turning the screw and Dwight McNeil probably caught a chance too sweetly after smashing it into the Rookery End instead of into the back of the net on 55 minutes.
Gracia had to change something and almost immediately after Deeney had one kicked off the line by Heaton, he sent on Success for Sema and pushed Deulofeu to the right. The Hornets needed more muscle up-top, as it was tough for Deeney against both the commanding Tarkowski and Ben Mee, while the plan was for Deulofeu to provide more incision down the right.
Success’ first real contribution was to lay the ball off to the otherwise subdued Roberto Pereyra and watch the Argentine try to bend yet another effort into the far corner. The ball dropped the wrong side of the post, but the signs were encouraging, especially when Success drew an unconventional challenge from Charlie Taylor. The strapping Nigerian was beginning to make his presence felt.
Tom Cleverley then let fly from distance, forcing a comfortable save from Heaton. This was more like it. There was more of a purpose about the Hornets’ play. But the game petered out thereafter and drifted, with both teams content with a point.
There was the sight of Miguel Britos making his first Premier League appearance since the mauling at Anfield in March and this was his sort of up-and-at-them game, just the sort of physical battle he loves. He made one fine clearance to prevent Chris Wood getting on the end of a cross at the far post and then another towering header soon after.
There was a late scare when Wood had a goal ruled out for offside, but all in all this wasn’t one that will live long in the memory. The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough and you just had to see the speed with which the players left the field to know what they thought of it all.
HORNETS | Foster (GK); Femenía (Britos 77), Kabasele, Mariappa, Holebas; Sema (Success 56), Cleverley, Capoue, Pereyra; Deulofeu, Deeney (C).
Subs not used: Gomes (GK), Gray, Masina, Quina, Wilmot.