Massive, Massive Point at Vicarage Road!
Saturday 5th April 2014 @3pm Kick-Off
Burnley pulled off a remarkable draw away to Watford on Saturday. Four injuries and a suspension had decimated the side and there was no doubt that the squad was down to the bare bones and missing key players especially in midfield and up front. Dean Marney was sitting out the second of his two match ban for a tenth yellow card whilst Danny Ings (ankle) and Kieran Trippier (hamstring) although close to a return were still sidelined for the Watford game. Sam Vokes of course is now out for the rest of the season after cruelly picking up an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the previous game at home to Leicester. If that was not bad enough in such a small squad, Junior Stanislas was also unavailable after complaining of a tight hamstring in midweek. Sean Dyche`s team were therefore now stretched to the limit and were now up against a side that had been undefeated at home in seven games, a run which also involved six victories. But they dug deep and came up trumps to earn a valuable point under very difficult circumstances. It all looked ominous when Watford took the lead as early as the ninth minute thanks to a deflected goal by Hornet`s hotshot striker, Troy Deeney from 25 yards out and there were plenty of nervy moments for Clarets fans after that with the hosts seeking to double their advantage. Burnley though showed great resilience and spirit to deny the Watford attack another goal and then sensationally with four minutes to go they got the equaliser when Scott Arfield turned on the edge of the area to fire a low shot past Manuel Almunia and make the final score 1-1. Every Clarets fan I am sure will be so proud of their team. Never has a point felt so much like victory bearing in mind the hurdles we faced ahead of this game. Well done lads!!
The importance of that point became even clearer when news filtered through that former gaffer Eddie Howe had done the Clarets a favour. His Bournemouth side beat third-placed QPR at home 2-1 despite being down to ten-men. There was no joy either for fourth-placed Derby who suffered a 1-0 defeat away to Middlesbrough. In the end then that point increased our lead over both our main automatic promotion rivals below us. The Clarets now have 80 points from 40 league games and they are now ten points clear of QPR and eleven points ahead of Derby with just six games left to play. You could also effectively add another point too due to our vastly superior goal difference. Burnley have plus 31 compared to QPR`s plus 14 and Derby`s plus 23. We are not there yet with eighteen points still to play for but three wins from the last six would guarantee our automatic promotion and that`s assuming our rivals don`t drop any more points in the meantime. The results yesterday though did league leaders, Leicester a favour. The Foxes beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 at home on Friday night and they remain nine points clear of the Clarets in top spot but after yesterday`s results they are now guaranteed Premier League football next season. We congratulate Nigel Pearson and his team and hope that the Clarets will soon be joining them.
Sean Dyche must have been having kittens with five of his already small squad unavailable for selection. With Ashley Barnes our only recognised first-team squad striker available, Dyche had no option once again but to consider a 4-1-4-1, 4-4-1-1 or 4-5-1 type formation. In the end he decided to play Scott Arfield just behind Ashley Barnes and hope the wingers could be creative enough to supply them both with opportunities. With Junior Stanislas sidelined, Dyche opted for Kightly and Treacy on the flanks with Wallace having to settle for a place on the bench. Edgar took over Marney`s role in centre midfield to make his first start since November. With so many players out, a couple of young guns made up the numbers on the bench. Hewitt was named in the eighteen along with Jason Gilchrist. This was Gilchrist`s first inclusion in the Clarets first team squad and the 19 year old striker proudly sat on the bench wearing the number 44 shirt. Our line-up in summary was therefore :
Heaton, Baird, Duff, Shackell, Mee, Kightly, Edgar, Jones, Treacy, Arfield, Barnes
Subs: Cisak, Long, Lafferty, Stock, Wallace, Hewitt, Gilchrist
Full Match Report
Watford lined up in their familiar 3-5-2 formation playing with three centre backs whilst the Clarets initially lined up in 4-4-1-1 formation although that would change throughout the game . Warwickshire referee, Stuart Atwell got this game underway and the poor official was in for a torrid time from the home fans. You may remember he was the referee that awarded a phantom goal to Reading against Watford in a match back in 2008. Well the Hornets fans had not forgotten that incident six years ago and even booed his name when it was announced on the tannoy ahead of kick-off. The scene was set for a hostile reception and the poor guy was virtually booed for every decision he made against the hosts throughout the game. The Football League should perhaps question their rationale for selecting Attwell for this match, his first involving Watford since that incident. Anyway back to the game!
Burnley had the first opportunity to open the scoring after seven minutes from a free-kick by Treacy. The ball though was comfortably held by Hornets keeper, Manuel Almunia. One minute later though disaster struck for the visitors after Deeney chested down a long ball from the back before unleashing a shot from 25 yards out. The ball may have taken a deflection on its way into the back of the net but it sent shivers down the spines of all the 1,732 visiting Clarets fans! There were already doubts how we could possibly score with just one player up front and two key strikers sidelined and now we would have to get at least one goal to rescue anything from this match. However there was at least some hope with the Watford defence looking shaky at the back. First though we would now have to withstand the onslaught from the hosts who were now seeking to double their advantage! We had not lost back-to-back games all season but things were looking a little ominous now. Despite Watford`s possession though Burnley soaked up all the pressure and in the thirteenth minute the visitors thought they had equalised when an out-swinging delivery from the left by Treacy was turned into the back of the net by Barnes at the near post. It looked like it was going to be one of those days though for the Clarets when the linesman raised a flag for offside. Watford buoyed by that decision now began to hit back. An attempt from the corner of the penalty box by Lewis McGowan moments later flew wide of the post. Mathias Ranégie then flicked on the ball to danger man Troy Deeney but he was denied a brace after seeing his shot fly wide of target. Burnley though were adopting a 'never-say-die` attitude and remarkably began to dominate possession with Watford content to defend deep and seek to catch out the Clarets on the break. Tactics were continually changing with the Clarets trying to adapt to the changing circumstances and try something new. Arfield and Treacy swapped places after half-an-hour in an effort to confuse the hosts so it was now the Irishman playing just behind Barnes and the Scot playing in the more familiar wide role. Daniel Pudil at the far post should have done better in the 34th minute after latching onto Ikechi Anya`s cross from the right but the wing back failed to connect properly and the danger passed. Watford`s Cristian Battocchio was given treatment on a serious-looking injury and there was a lengthy delay before he was stretchered off the pitch. The injury meant there would now be six minutes of added stoppage time. It was a pretty lively six minutes too! In the first minute of added time, Arfield attempted a half-volley after Barnes had flicked the ball onto him with his head but his shot was off-target. The hosts then had a chance to double their lead but McGugan struck the ball over the crossbar so at the break it was still 1-0 to Watford.
Neither manager made any changes for the start of the second-half but it was the Clarets who were out of the blocks first. On the counter-attack, Kightly teed up Arfield who attempted a shot from just outside the box but once again it was off-target. It was now pretty much end-to-end stuff and Deeney should perhaps have gone it alone and attempted a shot instead of passing the ball after being put through on the right hand side of the penalty area. The pass allowed the Clarets to clear the ball and put it behind for a corner. The Clarets were not giving up though in their attempts to get that equaliser. Kightly hit the side netting after 56 minutes and then back came Watford. On the hour mark, McGugan hit the ball over the crossbar from distance and now this really was an open game. There was definitely going to be more goals, just a question of which side would get them. Sean Dyche decided to bring on fresh legs in the 63rd minute with Wallace coming on to replace Treacy and the Scot took up the same position playing off Barnes rather than out wide. The Clarets had no option but to try and seek a goal from down the flanks and they found it difficult to break down a solid Watford defence. Crosses into the penalty area were having little effect allowing the hosts to break on the counter-attack. The Clarets defence was being tested to the full and a series of blocks frustrated the Hornets with the game now approaching the final 15 minutes. Back came the Clarets though in the 79th minute after being awarded a rare corner. As the ball came over from Kightly, Ben Mee towered above the rest to head on target forcing Almunia into an acrobatic, flying save. It looked like curtains for the Clarets though moments later when Anya rounded Tom Heaton but he just failed to get that lethal touch that would surely have made it game over. The Clarets though were digging deep and nothing more could have been asked of them with so many key players absent. Burnley were attacking in numbers despite the lack of available strikers and in the 86th minute it finally paid off. Arfield finding space controlled the ball on the edge of the box and thumped a low shot into the bottom corner of the net to send the travelling Clarets fans into ecstasy. Watford had their moments to get back the lead and Deeney came the closest with a dangerous looking shot in stoppage time but the Clarets held on to pick up one massive, massive vital point. We can all be proud of this performance and we certainly couldn`t have asked for anything more from the lads! Well done the Clarets!!
Watford: Almunia, Angella, Cassetti, Ekstrand, Anya, Battocchio (Abdi-43), Tozser, McGugan (Riera - 87), Pudil, Deeney, Ranegie (Faraoni-75)
Subs Not Used: Bond, Murray, Diakite, Hoban
Goals: Deeney 9
Booked: Yellow Card for Faraoni (88)
Burnley: Heaton, Baird, Duff, Shackell, Mee, Kightly, Edgar, Jones (Stock-76), Treacy (Wallace-63), Arfield, Barnes
Subs Not Used: Cisak, Long, Lafferty, Hewitt, Gilchrist
Goals: Arfield 86
Possession: 44% Watford, 56% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)