Football can be a game of such terrifyingly fine margins. One minute, on the 66th to be precise, Dwight McNeill, the left winger, was on his own goal line clearing a header from Troy Deeney that would have put the Hornets deservedly in front at that point after the brightest of starts to the second half. Alas, six minutes later, and making the most of the reprieve, McNeill was doing what he was more renowned for and supplying a cross for Jay Rodriguez to head in the winning goal somewhat against the run of play.
Taking the weather into account, and the fact the home side were on the receiving end of a 5-0 defeat at Manchester City just three days prior to the match, it looked as if the Hornets would have the most positive mindset of the two sides, as well as the fresher legs. But it was Burnley who came out of the traps quickest and had the best of the first-half and really should have been ahead at the break.
Burnley manager Sean Dyche said it had “been an emotional week” after his side dealt a blow to Watford’s Premier League survival hopes The Clarets, who have had injury and player contract problems, were thrashed by Manchester City on Monday, with media reports questioning Dyche’s future at the club. To compound matters a banner reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was towed by an aeroplane over Etihad Stadium during their match against City.
Cleverley failed to reappear for the second half, though Watford began with a greater determination to get forward, putting the home side under sustained pressure for the first time in the game. Not much came of it, apart from a wayward Will Hughes shot and James Tarkowski preventing Troy Deeney reaching a cross from Ismaila Sarr, but it was the first indication that the visitors might be interested in more than a point. Craig Cathcart might have done better when Pope made an unforced error and dropped a Will Hughes corner at his feet, though the substitute had his back to goal and after managing to turn could only come up with a shot that struck the now prostrate goalkeeper. Pope left his line and his area alertly to deal with a threatening break from Sarr 30 yards from goal, before Burnley had their biggest let-off, when Troy Deeney reached an Étienne Capoue corner with a goalbound header, only to find Dwight McNeil on defensive duty by a post and able to clear off the line.
A unique kick off time but an all too familiar tale for the Hornets, leaving Mike, Jon and Jas to sift through the wreckage of a dispiriting defeat away at Burnely. A predictably unhappy Mike is balanced out by a pragmatic Jason, but there is no denying the sombre tone in this one!