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After two home wins, we are back on the road tomorrow, destination Watford as we continue to try to win enough points to get out of relegation trouble.

Almost two weeks ago, we set off for West Ham just two days after the departure of manager Sean Dyche. It’s something I’ve still not quite taken in but on that trip it seemed to be the only talking point until we got ourselves a fully deserved point.

That set us up for two home games against Southampton and Wolves. I’m not sure many of us thought we’d pick up maximum points; I’m not sure many of us thought we would keep two clean sheets, but we did and, for the first time in months, we are outside of the bottom three in the table although we all know that we have a lot to do still if we want to be there come the end of the season.

We’ve got a good lead on both Norwich and tomorrow’s opponents Watford but the issue will be whether we can finish above Everton or Leeds or both. Everton are currently two points behind but with a game in hand; Leeds have three points more from the same number of games. Neither play until Sunday so we have a big chance to put them under some pressure tomorrow with a good result.

Those two home wins saw a return to the starting line up for Connor Roberts. After a really difficult start to life at Burnley, through injury and illness, things are looking up for him. He’s in the team, he scored his first goal for us and he’s also become a dad recently.

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He said yesterday: “The last two wins have given us more belief and it grows our drive to succeed. The boys are playing with freedom and if everyone plays as well as they can do, then the points will come.”

He won’t admit to knowing where we are in the table: “I don’t really look at the league table,” he added. “I just look at the next game and if I get a chance to play, then I try to play the best that I can. Hopefully, we win and then we move onto the next one. If we win every game between now and the end of the season then we’ll be alright.”

Although we’ve made changes for each of the three games that Michael Jackson has been in charge, I suspect we could go with the team that beat Wolves tomorrow with Maxwel Cornet not looking as though he’s going to make it.

The team could be: Nick Pope, Connor Roberts, Nathan Collins, James Tarkowski, Charlie Taylor, Dwight McNeil, Josh Brownhill, Jack Cork, Jay Rodriguez, Wout Weghorst, Matěj Vydra. Subs: Wayne Hennessey, Matt Lowton, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Bobby Thomas, Dale Stephens, Aaron Lennon, Ashley Barnes, Dara Costelloe.

Watford have done what Watford do this season. It seems whether the season is successful or not they like to change manager more often than any club I’ve ever come across. When Everton tried to get Marco Silva from them during the 2017/18 season, they were told quite strongly by CEO Scott Duxbury that Watford did not change manager during the season. They’ve done it seven times since, including two changes this season that have seen first Claudio Ranieri and then Roy Hodgson appointed.

Hodgson was appointed in January after Ranieri lasted just over three months, but it has been a difficult season for them on their return to the Premier League. They were above us at the start of April but they’ve been in trouble for some time and are now nine points behind us with five games remaining. Nothing is ever certain but it is improbable that either they or Norwich will stay up.

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This very definitely doesn’t make it any easy game for us tomorrow, far from it, as Watford look to get their first home point since they beat Manchester United back in November. It’s a game that we can win but one where we will have to be at our best and one where we will have to give a strong, committed performance.

Watford have had some good news with both Juraj Kucka and Kiko Femenía (pictured above) fit to return having missed their last game, the 5-1 defeat at Manchester City. Their team at the Etihad was: Ben Foster, Jeremy Ngakia, Christian Kabasele, Samir, Hassane Kamara, Moussa Sissoko, Imrân Louza, Tom Cleverley, Ismaïla Sarr, Josh King, Emmanuel Dennis. Subs: Daniel Bachmann William Troost-Ekong, João Pedro, Adam Masina, Ken Sema, Nicolas Nkoulou, Craig Cathcart, Dan Goslng, Edo Kayembe.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

With Watford in the Championship last season, we have to go back to November 2019 for our last visit to Vicarage Road.

We went into the game in ninth place in the Premier League but a 3-0 win, with all the goals coming in the second half, took us up three places to sixth and give us our first away win of the season.

Watford looked the more likely of the two sides in the first half but we got through it at 0-0 and then survived a series of corners early in the second half.

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Then the game changed. James Tarkowski headed a Dwight McNeil corner from the right back into the middle for Chris Wood to hook it home left footed. After that, the only time Watford threatened an equaliser was through a series of ridiculous decisions by referee Paul Tierney.We ensured the win with two goals in the final eight minutes. Watford won a corner right in front of us but there was a delay with VAR stepping in to award a penalty at the other end for a foul on Ashley Barnes. It was Barnes who stepped up to double the lead from the spot.

Six minutes later it was all over. Jeff Hendrick was fouled down the right and Ashley Westwood lifted the free kick into the box. The Watford defender could do no more than head the ball to Tarkowski. Ben Foster saved his right foot shot but it rebounded to Tarkowski who scored with his left foot to complete the scoring.

The teams were;

Watford: Ben Foster, Adrian Mariappa, Craig Dawson (Adam Masina 45+1), Craig Cathcart, Kiko Femenía, Abdoulaye Doucouré, Étienne Capoue, Will Hughes (Ismaíla Sarr 67), José Holebas, Gerard Deulofeu, Andre Gray (Troy Deeney 56). Subs not used: Heurelho Gomes, Dimitri Foulquier, Tom Dele-Bashiru, Nathaniel Chalobah.

Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood (Jay Rodriguez  75). Subs not used: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Ben Gibson, Erik Pieters, Aaron Lennon, Robbie Brady.

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