Clarets Tell the Hornets to Buzz Off
Saturday 12th February 2011 @3pm Kick-Off
The Clarets picked up only their third league away win of the season after defeating Watford 3-1 at Vicarage Road on Saturday. This though was manager, Eddie Howe`s second win on the road in four attempts since arriving and at long last we now have a manager who seems able to motivate the team to pick up wins away from Turf Moor.
Let`s hope this continues since before yesterday`s away victory we had only won 5 in 44 attempts on the road. This victory also meant we had our first back-to-back win of 2010-11 and our second double after defeating Watford 3-2 earlier in the season at Turf Moor. There was also another jinx broken that would certainly have pleased Chris Iwelumo. Iwelumo is our joint top scorer with Chris Eagles but until the Watford game all his goals had been scored at Turf Moor. He scored our third goal against Watford, his first on the road this season to destroy yet another hoodoo.
The result keeps our play-offs hopes very much alive too. The Clarets move up to 8th spot on 46 points from 30 games. We are still six points behind Leeds United in 6th spot but do have a game in hand over them. That game will be played on Tuesday night when we face yet another tough away trip to play the Bluebirds in the Cardiff City Stadium. Cardiff won again on Saturday beating Scunthorpe at home to go into second spot. They have played the same number of games as the Clarets but have picked up 54 points, eight more than Burnley. Somehow we have to maintain momentum on the road this month to keep in contention with no home game now until we play Palace on the 5th March. Picking up points against Cardiff won`t be easy and we also have a derby at Deepdale to look forward too before the end of the month. Preston may be bottom of the League but anything can happen in a derby game of this nature and we have to make sure it happens for us!
In a month in which we also face West Ham at the Boleyn Ground in the fifth round of the FA Cup, the Clarets season could well be over by the end of February but let`s hope not. Confidence will at least have been boosted after beating the Hornets and it was certainly a feather in our cap considering Watford had not lost seven previous games at Vicarage Road before entertaining the Clarets. The Hornets indeed were last defeated at Vicarage Road over four months ago so this win was some achievement.
Eddie Howe was forced to make one change from the side that had defeated high-flying Norwich City at Turf Moor in our previous match. Charlie Austin had been ill all week and unable to train. Obviously the club had rightly kept that quiet so as not to give our opponents knowledge and tactical advantage. Chris Iwelumo therefore stepped forward to take his place.
We lined up as follows:
Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Fox, Cork, Marney, Wallace, Eagles, Iwelumo, Rodriguez
Subs: Jensen, Bikey, Easton, Alexander, Bartley, Elliott, Thompson
Staffordshire referee, Tony Bates got the match underway on a surprisingly bright sunny day considering there had earlier been torrential rain in Hertfordshire. The pitch though was in an awful state and rather reminiscent of Glanford Park when we played the Iron the other week. The reason this time though was down to Rugby! Vicarage Road also hosts the Saracens so it was no wonder the pitch was cut up.
Watford caught the Clarets in two minds right from the kick-off and could have taken the lead after just 24 seconds! Danny Graham put through Danny Drinkwater who was now charging towards goal in acres of space. The midfielder had plenty to shoot at but he dragged his shot wide much to the relief of Clarets fans. That early let off seemed to stir the Clarets into action and from a corner they tried a routine practiced on the training pitch that nearly came off. Wallace took the corner aimed for Cork who then cleverly stepped over the ball to bamboozle the Watford defence and allow Chris Eagles to fire a shot on target that was blocked.
What followed next was pure farce but at least it would be the Clarets who would be laughing after taking the lead following a bizarre own goal with just eight minutes played. A Chris Eagles pass looked to be no danger to the Watford defence with Jay Rodriguez giving chase. Out came the Watford keeper, Scott Loach to attempt a routine clearance. The ball though ricocheted off Watford defender, Dale Bennett and into the back of an open net.
I don`t know what it is these days about the Clarets but we seem incapable of holding onto leads for more than a few minutes and so it proved again after Watford equalised on 13 minutes. Marvin Sordell was the architect of the goal and was given far too much space before getting in a low cross to find Watford`s leading goal-scorer, Danny Graham at the near post. It wasn`t an elegant goal but somehow he bundled the ball over the line from close range to make it 1-1.
This match was developing now into an end-to-end affair although without much quality it would probably have still looked pretty scrappy to the neutral with the flow of the game not helped at all by the bobbly pitch. Both sides were defending poorly with the Clarets seemingly pegged back for a lot of the first half. Chris Eagles was trying his best and had the pitch not been thwarting him we could have had Watford on the back foot. The Clarets had another scare when a mistake by Clarke Carlisle let in Sordell. Grant though came chasing out to snuff out the danger.
Struggling in defence on the wretched pitch, at least going forward we often looked threatening and gradually got the lion`s share of possession before the half came to a close. Wallace looked a continual handful down the flank although some of his crosses were a little wayward. Jay Rodriguez too, fresh from England Under 21 duty in midweek, continued to be a threat in front of goal with the Watford back four often running scared. On one attack, Jay Rod on a run finally put Eagles clear but with space running out, the winger could only chip his attempt wide of the post.
It was 1-1 then at half-time with Eddie Howe on balance probably being the happier of the two managers. The Clarets made no changes for the start of the second half with Watford bringing on Adam Thompson to replace Bennett.
Both teams seemed unable to break the stalemate in the early stages of the second half. Watford sub, Thompson headed wide from a corner and then Rodriguez hooked an attempt over the top of the bar. The game now needed something special to break the deadlock and it came in the form of Chris Eagles.
In an impressive five-man move, Eagles in a one-two with Iwelumo sensed a goal by showing great awareness and shooting on target with his first touch from fifteen yards out. The ball sailed into the bottom corner of the net to restore the Clarets lead. Now all we had to do was hold onto it and not concede again a few minutes later.
Thankfully this time Burnley sensed blood and were determined not to let Watford back-in. Rodriguez nearly doubled the lead with a shot but the ball went wide. Grant had to come to our rescue though when Hornets` substitute Andy Weimann got in a shot to test the keeper. The former Owls stopper though managed to touch the ball round the post and save the danger.
Our resilience and resolution to come home away with three points was then rewarded with 15 minutes to play. It was danger-man Chris Eagles who set up our third goal. He got in a perfect cross to the far post to find the lurking Iwelumo. He headed home to score his first goal this season away from home and in so doing continuing to be our joint top scorer with Chris Eagles (11 league goals each now).
It would prove to be his last touch of the match though, with Thompson coming on to replace him on 76 minutes.
Watford tried their best to get back into this game and of course Clarets fans can never relax knowing how good we have been this season at losing two goal leads! Lee Grant though was in good form and he snuffed out most of the danger. He denied Hodson before making a spectacular save to prevent Weimann from reducing the arrears. Clarets knew it was game over for Watford when even Graham missed late on. There was just time for new midfielder, Marvin Bartley to come on in added time to make his debut for the Clarets before the referee brought the game to a close.
So it has been an excellent start for new gaffer, Eddie Howe. Four wins and one draw out of six games is pretty impressive but now all he has to do is keep the momentum going with two more league games (Cardiff, Preston) and one FA Cup 5th round tie (West Ham) still to play this month and all of them away from home. Can we keep up our promotion challenge? February could be the month that seals our fate but we now have 18 games left and 54 points still to play for so come on you Clarets!
Watford: Loach, Hodson, M Taylor, Mariappa, Bennett (Thompson 46), Eustace, Buckley, McGinn, Drinkwater (Townsend 72), Graham, Sordell (Weimann 55)
Subs Not Used: Gilmartin, Jenkins, Whichelow, Deeney
Goal: Graham 13
Booked: Yellow card for Eustace
Burnley: Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Fox, Cork (Alexander 83), Marney, Wallace, Eagles (Bartley 90+1), Iwelumo (Thompson 76), Rodriguez
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Bikey, Easton, Elliott
Goals: Bennett (og) 8, Eagles 66, Iwelumo 75
Booked: Yellow cards for Fox and Mears
Possession: 46% Watford, 54% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Tony Bates (Staffordshire)