Ten-man Watford were unable to move level on points with Burnley after they suffered a controversial 1-0 defeat at freezing Turf Moor.

The game was goalless as it entered the latter stages of the opening period when Marvin Zeegelaar slid into a challenge on Steven Defour. There was no malice and the amount of contact was questionable, but the nature of the challenge gave referee Lee Probert a decision to make and deemed it to be reckless, leaving the Hornets to play for more than 50 minutes with 10 men.

Watford needed to get through to half-time without conceding, but Scott Arfield was to score what proved to be the winner late in the half.

The Hornets’ opportunities to get back on terms proved to be limited thereafter against the organised Clarets ranks; indeed, it was the hosts who had more reason to feel aggrieved at the performance of Probert and his team of officials as Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes both had goals disallowed for controversial offsides.

Marco Silva made two changes from the side that drew 1-1 at home to Tottenham Hotspur last time out, partly as a consequence of switching back to a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Sebastian Prodl was the centre-half to drop to the bench as Andre Carrillo returned on the right flank, while Daryl Janmaat made his first appearance since the 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City in place of Kiko Femenia, who was ruled out with a minor muscle strain.

Jose Holebas was back among the substitutes, as was – somewhat surprisingly – Isaac Success, who would have been hoping to come on for his first league outing of the campaign.

Former Hornets boss Sean Dyche also made two changes as his Burnley side sought to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat at Leicester City last time out.

Having lost Robbie Brady to a season-ending knee injury, Dyche also had to so without Ben Mee after the central defender needed stitches in a gashed knee he suffered at the King Power Stadium. Their places were taken by Arfield and Kevin Long, who made his first Premier League appearance of the campaign.

Watford looked to start positively, winning a corner inside the opening 80 seconds and from it they had a good chance to take the lead.

Tom Cleverley played what looked to be a set-piece move off the training ground into the near side of the penalty area from the right, Roberto Pereyra hooked the ball on towards the far post where Richarlison, Adrian Mariappa and Troy Deeney all got in each other’s way to an extent, with the Hornets skipper having the final touch as he nodded wide.

The visitors continued to look the more confident and assured side, pressing from the front to regain possession and looking quicker to the second ball. And it was from a turnover ball that they created their next opportunity; Carrillo advancing down the right before playing a cross into the near post where the stretching Richarlison diverted the ball over Nick Pope’s crossbar.

Watford’s boy from Brazil won their next corner, which ended with Pereyra having a well-struck effort from outside the 18-yard box blocked.

The hosts had taken their time to gain a foothold in the game but Heurelho Gomes had to go to ground for the first time in the 13th minute to hold Wood’s shot-cum-cross in from the right.

That kick-started the Clarets’ first good spell in the game and four minutes later Gomes had to make a superb save to keep the game goalless, diving full-length to his left to tip a Johann Berg Gudmundsson free-kick from 25 yards wide after the Burnley midfielder had been fouled by Cleverley in a dangerous central position.

Burnley continued to have the upper hand, with Gudmundsson dragging another effort wide, before Gomes leapt to his right to keep out Wood’s attempted chip.

Having been on the back foot for a spell, the Hornets had the next opportunity when after Deeney had challenged for a header on the right side of the area, Abdoulaye Doucuoure hit a good snap shot from the edge of the 18-yard box which Pope had to parry.

Generally though - as the snow began to fall increasingly heavily as the game ticked past the half-an-hour mark, the Clarets were having the better of it - continuing to offer a dangerous threat on the break.

Watford did have a promising situation in the 37th minute when Cleverley played the ball inside the full-back out to Carrillo coming in from the right, but the Preuvian international opted to stand up a cross rather than drill the ball across and although Janmaat was able to head towards goal, the save was comfortable for Pope.

But Watford’s hopes were to suffer a major blow four minutes before the break when Zeegelaar slid into a challenge two-footed and caught Defour. The amount of contact was questionable, but Probert deemed the tackle as reckless and sent the Hornets left-back off.

Pereyra was the man to be sacrificed as Holebas came on, but a bad end to the half was to get even worse for the visitors in the last minute of normal time when Gudmundsson’s ball in from the right was allowed to run across to Arfield, who took on and beat Janmaat on the outside before calmly slotting the ball beyond Gomes to make it 1-0.

However, the Hornets’ sense of injustice was magnified because prior to going behind, the visitors thought they had a case for a penalty when Richarlison appeared to be bundled over before Carrillo’s ball in from the right ended with Holebas hitting the side netting.

The opening stages of the second half ebbed and flowed, but Watford were the first side to have an attempt when Doucoure dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box after being teed up by Cleverley following Carrillo’s advances down the left.

The Hornets – or more particularly Janmaat – wasted a promising opportunity when he attacked at pace into the area but chose to take on one man too many as he tried to open up a shooting opportunity and didn’t even get the consolation of a corner after a defensive clearance deflected off him.

The visitors were having an encouraging spell though, and they threatened again when Deeney chested the ball done in the area, but it wouldn’t come down quick enough for Carrillo to get a quick shot away as he was closed down by Cork.

The former Vicarage Road loanee was unable to save a corner though, but after having some more pressure in and around the Burnley area Cleverley fired harmlessly over.

Dyche decided to change things after 59 minutes, bringing on Ashley Barnes for Jeff Hendrick as he switched to a 4-4-2 shape.

Silva’s men had started the second half well but they survived a big scare when Cork was, incorrectly, flagged offside following a free-kick as he laid the ball across for Wood to make sure it went over the line.

Another dubious offside call followed minutes later when Long volleyed over from close range at the far post after another set piece had been played in with pace from the right.

And the debateable offside calls continued to fall in Watford’s favour when the hosts had initially what looked to be a legitimate goal ruled out when Barnes put the ball in the net after the ball had fallen to him off a defender.

Probert opted to consult with his linesman after making the original decision but after a lengthy discussion, there was to be no change of heart and the deficit remained at one goal, with replays showing Barnes was offside when the ball was first played.

The majority of the game continued to be played towards the Hornets goal though, and with 13 minutes Christian Kabasele conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position near the edge of his box. Defour took the free-kick and whipped it over the wall but narrowly over the top as well.

Andre Gray entered the fray against his former club as a 79th-minute replacement for Carrillo and soon after Janmaat flicked a header over the top from a corner from the left.

But the Hornets needed Gomes to make another good save to keep them in with a chance two minutes later when he dived to his right to push away a Gudmundsson shot after some good Burnley build-up play.

Phil Bardsley was yellow carded with four minutes of normal play remaining for a foul on Richarlison, an incident that led to Silva going ballistic on the sidelines and earning a talking to from Probert.

Holebas’ resultant set piece was dangerous as it swung into in towards the near post but the bounce did fall favourably for the hosts as it was headed across the area.

Watford were handed one last throw of the dice when they awarded a free-kick and Gomes ventured up from the back, but Holebas wasted his delivery, putting the ball too close to Pope as a frustrating afternoon ended in defeat in Lancashire.

Burnley: Pope; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Long, Ward; Arfield, Cork, Hendrick (Barnes 59), Defour, Gudmundsson; Wood. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Taylor, Vokes, Westwood, Ulvestad, Wells.

Watford: Gomes; Janmaat, Mariappa, Kabasele, Zeegelaar; Doucuoure, Cleverley; Carrillo (Gray 79), Pereyra (Holebas 43), Richarlison; Deeney. Subs not used: Karnezis, Prodl, Success, Watson, Capoue.

Bookings: Zeegelaar for a foul on Defour – sent off (39); Bardsley for a foul on Richarlison (86).

Attendance: 19,479 (1,010 away fans).

Referee: Lee Probert.