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Watford prevent third straight league defeat with 0-0 draw at high-flying Burnley in the Championship
Watford secured a hard-fought 0-0 draw at high-flying Burnley to prevent a third consecutive defeat in the Championship and relieve some pressure on head coach Gianfranco Zola.
The Hornets went into the game eight places and 12 points behind their opponents and Zola will have been pleased with a gutsy, if not particularly fluid, performance and a well-earned clean sheet.
In the previous ten meetings between the two sides a total of 41 goals had been scored but there were precious few genuine chances in the match as Watford set their stall out to absorb Burnley’s attacks and hit their opponents on the break.
The hosts were at their most dangerous when crossing from out wide and Watford keeper Jonathan Bond had to make a handful of smart – but fairly comfortable - saves to keep Burnley at bay.
Lewis McGugan arguably had the chance of the match in the second half as his shot was cleared off the line but Watford were fairly tentative going forward and created few other opportunities.
Zola made two changes to the team that started against Yeovil Town as Davide Faraoni and Cristian Battocchio came in for Daniel Pudil and Fernando Forestieri.
The Hornets lined up in a 4-5-1 system with George Thorne anchoring the midfield in front of the back four while Battocchio and McGugan were given more freedom to push forward.
Burnley started on the front foot and twice went close within the first five minutes as two crosses flashed across Watford’s penalty area but nobody was on hand to convert.
After a nervy start, Watford gradually settled into the match as McGugan and Battocchio began to link up well with Troy Deeney who worked hard to hold the ball up and wait for support.
Just after the quarter-hour mark, McGugan slid Battocchio through down the left-hand side but Burnley keeper Tom Heaton was quick off his line to reach the ball first and prevent the shot.
Watford began to pop the ball about nicely in midfield with Thorne, Murray and Battocchio all linking well but clear-cut chances were at a premium at both ends.
Arfield diverted Trippier’s cross towards goal but Bond was equal to the shot and moments later Arfield tried again but this time his close-range effort was blocked by Nyron Nosworthy.
Burnley looked at their most dangerous when crossing the ball into Watford’s area either from open play or a set-piece but otherwise the Hornets were not overly troubled.
The best chance of the half came two minutes before the break as another Burnley delivery was met by the head of Arfield, this time at the front post, but Bond got down quickly to push the ball round the post.
The Hornets stopper looked in confident mood and moments later he was called into action again, holding on well to Treacy’s stinging shot from distance to keep the score goalless at half-time.
After a scrappy opening five minutes to the second period, the game suddenly opened up with both teams breaking dangerously on the counter attack.
Burnley found themselves with a four against three but instead of capitalising on the extra man, Arfield opted to shoot from long range and Bond held on.
In the 54th minute, it was Watford’s turn as Hector Bellerin’s cross was volleyed goalwards by McGugan but Heaton pulled off an excellent save to deny the Hornets midfielder.
Moments later, another Watford attack saw McGugan turn provider as his cross fell kindly for Murray in the box but Ben Mee did brilliantly to get across and block the shot.
With the game stretched, both teams couldn’t resist throwing players forward and just after the hour-mark, Burnley went close as Arfield’s cross had to be cleared behind by Nosworthy with Sam Vokes waiting.
In the 66th minute, Watford had their best chance of the match. Murray drove down the line and chipped his cross to the back post where McGugan had space to drive his shot at goal but Mee was perfectly placed to head the ball off the line.
Zola threw on Diego Fabbrini for Murray and Daniel Pudil for Marco Cassetti as the match remained in the balance with ten minutes to play.
If either team was going to grab a later winner, Burnley looked the more likely as the home side flooded the Watford box with a number of crosses in the last few minutes.
The Hornets had a chance to steal a win at the death however and the travelling supporters thought they had won it when the net rippled but McGugan’s shot hit the side netting and stayed out.
Watford drop to 12th in the table but will be hoping to build on this result when they travel to Leeds United on Saturday
Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Mee, Shackell, Long, Stanislas (Hewitt, 79), Stock, Arfield, Jones, Treacy, (Kightly, 68), Vokes
Subs: Cisak, Lafferty, Hewitt, Kightly, Howieson, Dummigan, Edgar
Watford: Bond; Faraoni, Nosworthy, Cassetti (Pudil, 80), Ekstrand; Bellerin, Battocchio, Thorne, McGugan Murray (Fabbrini, 75); Deeney Subs: Woods, Forestieri, Acuna, Hall, Pudil, Fabbrini, Iriney
Referee: Michael Naylor
Attendance: 10,910 (274 Watford)
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