Bullying Clarets light up Turf Moor
Jeff Hendrick and Michael Keane, along with Steven Defour, will grab all the headlines from Burnley’s superb 2-0 win against Watford last night, but this was not a three-man display by any means as Burnley recorded a second Premier League win of the season.
Hendrick and Keane both scored their first ever Premier League goals, Hendrick getting his first in Burnley colours since his record breaking transfer from the struggling Championship club Derby County, and the Burnley fans have already found a new hero to worship in Belgian international Defour who had such an influence on the game as Burnley bullied Watford, according to their captain Troy Deeney into submission.
I enjoy a midweek game, I always have. I admit to being frustrated at not playing on Saturday afternoon which I spent watching the youth team and then Jeff Stelling but I’ve always thought there was something special about playing under the Turf Moor lights.
Those lights, our new ones, were in use properly for the first time last night. I wasn’t expecting to see much different to be honest from the ones we had last season but I can assure anyone not there that there is a massive difference. They were stunning.
Too much talking outside the ground meant I wasn’t in until not long before the teams came out. We’d made two changes to the team that had lost at Leicester but Sean Dyche had stuck with this 4-5-1 formation he’d employed against the champions at the King Power.
Sam Vokes returned, as expected. He replaced the suspended Andre Gray with Iceland international Johann Berg Gudmundsson getting his second Premier League start at the expense of Scott Arfield.
Burnley’s team of eleven included players of six nationalities, if you consider Englishmen George Boyd and Vokes to be Scottish and Welsh but Watford’s line up was very much multi-national with eleven different countries represented in the team named by Italian manager Walter Mazzarri who came out in their all white kit. Presumably they thought yellow and black would clash with claret and blue but I’m not sure where they dug out those shorts. I’ve never seen any so big and Deeney’s were so long they seemed to be covering half of his socks.
I was nervous. Having gone three games without a win since beating Liverpool, and looking at the fixtures coming up, I reckoned we probably needed three points against a side that had sorted out Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United last time out.
I needn’t have been. This was a dominant performance right from the off with Watford having no real answer to us for much of it.
We got off on the front foot and had Watford defending desperately at times. I read earlier in the day that they turn out the oldest team in the Premier League and they won’t be far off being the biggest either. One thing for certain is they will be among the most petulant and niggly. They had three players yellow carded during the game, it should have been more and quite how Roberto Pereyra didn’t see red only referee Mike Jones, who overall had a decent game, will know.
The system was clearly working. The two wide players, George Boyd and Gudmundsson, were making hay down the flanks, the three central midfield players were running the show and Vokes was, at times, giving a master class in centre forward play as a lone striker.
We got some good quality into the box, Boyd forced Heurelho Gomes into a top save while both Gudmundsson and Defour were close with good efforts.
When you are so dominant, you need to get a goal, and it finally came just over seven minutes before the interval. Defour found Gudmundsson whose shot was going wide. It deflected off Dean Marney who then did so well to keep it in play on the right and win a corner.
I’m not sure what went on in the box but Watford’s Jose Holebas got himself a yellow card before Defour’s flag kick to the far post was headed home by Hendrick. It was no less than we deserved and 1-0 was so close to being 2-0 within a minute later when we won a free kick on the right hand side. Matt Lowton fired it into the box and Vokes was inches away from getting on the end of the knock down from Ben Mee.
Just before half time, Tom Heaton made a routine save. It was the first time he’d been asked to do anything and when that half time whistle blew the players received a superb ovation from the crowd. We were fully deserving of the lead and it might just have been bigger.
Watford made a change at half time with Juan Zúñiga replacing Craig Cathcart and switching from their favoured back three to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation. And they did get an early shot in with Deeney bringing a good save from Heaton.
It was always going to be Burnley’s night though and we were soon 2-0 up. We’d been talking about the way Defour carries the ball out and gets us going forward so effortlessly and quickly and he did it again, eventually playing the ball out to Boyd who shot from the left hand side. It was certainly on target and might have beaten Gomes but for Sebastian Prödl sliding in to divert it for a corner.
This time Defour’s corner was headed out, but only back to the Belgian who switched the ball to his right foot and curled in a beauty that was met by Keane who headed into the corner of the net.
That really was game over. Watford did have a couple of opportunities but it was not of success for Isaac Success who saw his shot go wide with Heaton adjudged to have got a touch. He also saw an attempt go well wide in time added on.
By then, we’d won this game comfortably. Defour had come off with seven minutes remaining. I’m sure he could have played the full ninety minutes this time but this one was to get him his richly deserved standing ovation. We even then saw Michael Kightly in stoppage time, replacing Gudmundsson. It was his first appearance at home since the 0-0 draw against Ipswich on 2nd January.
The win has taken us up to 13th in the table. It’s certainly a position I’d more than settle for at the end of the season but it really is meaningless just now. All that matters is collecting as many points as we can and that’s taken us to seven.
We will, undoubtedly, play better teams than Watford, during the season, but nevertheless this really was an outstanding performance from Burnley.
On the message board, on the player ratings thread, claretspice wrote: “It was probably our most convincing win in a top flight game since the 1970s, with the possible exception of a couple of dead rubbers aside.”
I hadn’t thought of that. I know we’ve never won a home Premier League game by more than two goals and the last top flight victory at Turf Moor with a bigger margin was back in August 1975 when Peter Noble scored three in a 4-1 win against Middlesbrough.
He also added: “Most pleasingly the game was won and lost in the centre of midfield where our trio gelled nicely and gave us a real control of the game.” It was, and for the first time since he left I wasn’t bemoaning the loss of David Jones. Defour was outstanding, Hendrick had a terrific full home debut and then there was Marney. Burnley really do look a different team when he’s in this sort of form. No wonder we were so keen to extend his contract last week.
It’s Arsenal next. That, I would imagine, will be more difficult. But all games in this league are difficult, it’s just that last night we were far, far better than a Watford side who, despite their at times distasteful approach, were bullied into submission by the rampant Clarets.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Michael Kightly 90+3), Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Steven Defour (Scott Arfield 83), George Boyd, Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, James Tarkowski, Aiden O’Neill, Patrick Bamford.
Yellow Card: Matt Lowton.
Watford: Heurelho Gomes, Craig Cathcart (Juan Camilo Zúñiga ht), Sebastian Prödl, Miguel Britos, Nordin Amrabat (Isaac Success 58), Étienne Capoue, Valon Behrami, Roberto Pereyra (Kenedy 75), José Holebas, Troy Deeney, Odion Ighalo. Subs not used: Costel Pantilimon, Younès Kaboul, Ben Watson, Adlène Guedioura.
Yellow Cards: Roberto Pereyra, José Holebas, Isaac Success.
Referee: Mike Jones (Chester).
Attendance: 18,519 (including 1,415 from Watford).
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