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Watford draw at former manager Sean Dyche's Burnley
Watford made it four games unbeaten on the road as their first encounter with former boss Sean Dyche ended in a 1-1 draw against Burnley at Turf Moor.
The Hornets were some way below their best throughout but they took an early lead when Nathaniel Chalobah drilled home after the home side had twice failed to clear following a corner.
The Chelsea loanee was forced out of the contest at half-time through injury but by that stage Charlie Austin had equalised from the penalty spot after Almen Abdi’s rather soft challenge on Dean Marney in the area had been penalised.
Burnley continued to have more of the play after the break but it was the visitors who arguably had the better of the chances until late on.
Troy Deeney, who was aiming to score for a club record-equalling seventh successive game was denied on three occasions by Lee Grant, while Joel Ekstrand hit the bar with a speculative effort from all of 30 yards.
However, it took an excellent challenge from Fitz Hall to divert an Austin shot away from a corner in stoppage time and from the resultant set piece, a header from substitute Sam Vokes was diverted over the bar by Manuel Almunia.
Gianfranco Zola made two changes as his side sought to bounce back from last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at home to Hull City.
Abdi returned to the starting line-up after his five-game absence following a dislocated shoulder, while Alex Geijo was given the nod to partner the record-chasing-equalling Deeney in attack. That meant Mark Yeates and Matej Vydra dropped to the bench.
Former boss Dyche, who was axed in the summer following the Pozzo takeover at Vicarage Road, was always going to have to make two changes from the side that last 2-0 at Nottingham Forest last time out, with Chris McCann and Michael Duff suspended, but he also made an additional one as Brian Stock dropped to the bench. In came Kevin Long, who made his first senior start, David Edgar and Danny Ings.
The visitors looked like they might be forced to into an early change inside the opening two minutes when Chalobah pulled up after getting caught in the back as he went to contest a header on the edge of the Clarets box, but after receiving treatment he was able to continue.
Burnley had the first chance in the sixth minute when Ross Wallace played in a dangerous free-kick from the left, Austin headed down and Deeney just got to the ball ahead of Ings inside the six-yard box to clear behind for a corner.
However, Watford were able to force three corners in succession in and around the ten-minute mark and from the third they made the breakthrough with what was their first attempt of the match.
Abdi played in the set-piece from the right which was headed clear to the edge of the area where Daniel Pudil was able to find Hall in space on the left side of the 18-yard box. His dangerous delivery was also headed back out towards the edge of the penalty area but it only reached Chalobah, who drilled a first time right-footed half-volley back past Grant to give the Hornets a 1-0 advantage.
In trying to clear the ball though, Edgar clashed heads with Geijo and there followed another delay before play was able to restart from the centre spot as both players received treatment.
Zola’s men were relatively comfortable after taking the lead, although there was a threat when Marney was played in behind Hall on the left side of the penalty area but Almunia was able to deal with the attempted pull back.
The Clarets though, began to up the ante after that, with Long coming up from the back to head a Wallace corner from the left back across the target and wide.
Chalobah then picked up a yellow card for kicking the ball away after his side conceded a free-kick and that was the catalyst for a chain of events that led to Burnley equalising.
Wallace took the set piece deep to the far post where Edgar and Ings both went for the ball and Almunia did very well to scramble the ball behind for a corner. That set piece was taken short though, and from it Abdi was adjudged to have bundled into the back of Marney and referee Philip Gibbs had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Before the penalty could be taken, Almunia was yellow carded for time wasting after claiming the ball was not on the penalty mark. But it didn’t affect Austin, who calmly sent the Hornets keeper the wrong way to net his 22nd of the campaign and make it 1-1.
The Watford keeper was soon involved again, diving to his left to hold on to a low, swerving effort from Kieran Trippier at the second attempt before the referee penalised the Clarets right-back for following in as he sought to capitalise on the potential rebound.
The Spaniard also had to save again, more comfortably this time, to deal with a downward header from Austin following a searching Daniel Lafferty delivery before Abdi had the chance to try and play a team-mate in but chose to go it alone and fired harmlessly over from 20 yards.
However, the Clarets were soon back on the offensive and Tommie Hoban, who had made a number of timely interceptions in the opening period, was forced into a last-ditch challenge to prevent Austin from getting on the end of Martin Paterson’s low delivery from the left side of the area after Almunia had been unable to cut it out.
Abdi pulled another long-range effort across goal and wide in the last minute of normal time in the first half but the build-up was encouraging, with Watford putting together a neat one-touch build-up after an opening period in which some of their passing had again been below par.
The opening period though, came to a close with Chalobah clearly struggling as he limped off the pitch and there was no surprise that Yeates came on at the start of the second half to make the 300th appearance of his career.
The hosts made the more positive start but it was Watford who nearly retook the lead in the 50th minute when Pudil was released on the left and although his attempted cross was partially dealt with, Geijo hooked the ball back over his shoulder to Deeney, whose first attempt was blocked by the feet of Grant, who then saved the in-form striker’s follow-up from the right side of the six-yard box.
Almunia’s first save of the half came from a well-struck long distance effort by Lafferty, but the Hornets again threatened when Deeney’s attempted one-two almost put striker partner Geijo in on goal.
The next chance came Burnley’s way in the 60th minute when Trippier’s cross from the right was met by the diving Austin but his flicked header was directed straight at Almunia.
For the most part though, the game had become scrappy, with both sides guilty of making mistakes in possession, although Austin wasn’t too far away in the 69th shot when he checked back inside on his right foot on the edge of the area before drilling a rising right-footed drive narrowly wide.
The Clarets target man then almost capitalised on a misjudged clearance from Fitz Hall by attempting to lift it past Almunia but the Hornets keeper just managed to get a hand to the ball in time to deny the forward a straightforward tap in.
Both managers decided to make a change on 72 minutes, with Vydra replacing Geijo and Junior Stanislas coming on for Paterson.
There was scare for the visitors soon after when Marco Cassetti handled a deflected Marney shot in his own area but the referee deemed it accidental after the ball rebounded up and struck the Hornets player’s limb.
Following that let off though, Watford enjoyed a good spell and they almost scored twice in quick succession around the 79-minute mark.
First, Ekstrand chanced his arm with a speculative half-volley from 30 yards plus from out on the right that dipped over Grant but crashed back off the crossbar. The Hornets were able to keep the attack going and a neat build-up ended with Deeney being set up with a clear opportunity but his right-footed strike was kept out by the keeper.
Dyche made his second change with six minutes remaining as Keith Treacy came on for Ings and Burnley’s other replacement, Stanislas, then had an opportunity when a partially cleared free-kick dropped to him on the edge of the area but he snatched his shot wide.
The substitute saw another effort blocked but only after Pudil had been fortunate to see the spin of a bouncing ball fall in his favour after his initial misjudgement had threatened to give his side big problems.
The Czech player made way for Ikechi Anya as the game entered stoppage time, with Vokes also coming on for Wallace, but Burnley so nearly snatched the points late on.
First, Hall had to make a fine last-gasp challenge to divert an Austin strike wide and then, from the resultant corner, Vokes powered in a header that Almunia instinctively stuck up two arms to divert over his own bar to preserve a point.
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Long, Shackell, Lafferty; Wallace (Vokes 90), Marney, Edgar, Ings (Treacy 84); Austin, Paterson (Stanislas 72). Not used: Jensen, Mills, Bartley and Stock.
Watford: Almunia; Ekstrand, Hall, Hoban; Cassetti, Abdi, Chalobah (Yeates 46), Hogg, Pudil (Anya 90); Deeney, Geijo (Vydra 72). Not used: Neuton, Beleck, Bonham and Battocchio.
Bookings: Chalobah for dissent (26); Almunia for time wasting (28); Treacy for a foul on Pudil (88).
Referee: Philip Gibbs.