Inches away from a win at Watford
Burnley couldn’t quite make it four wins in four in the Premier League yesterday at Watford. We were held to a 0-0 draw but came so, so close to winning it in stoppage time, only to be denied by a trigger happy assistant referee.
He raised his flag for offside, incorrectly, as Chris Wood netted as the ball rebounded to him from goalkeeper Ben Foster who had not been able to hold a Dwight McNeil shot. Had that flag stayed down, as it should have done, it would have given us a 1-0 win and I can’t imagine there were many inside Vicarage Road who would have said it was a win we didn’t deserve.
After a difficult first ten minutes or so, we dominated the game. We had our chances and had we put them away we’d be sitting now on 24 points and five points clear of the bottom three but at least the unbeaten run has continued.
With threats of some horrible winter weather, I thought it might be a difficult journey down to Hertfordshire, but nothing could have been further from the truth. There had been no overnight snow, the temperatures were higher than they’d been for the previous few days and it was all trouble free although not, it seems for some football supporters travelling north.
While on a Virgin Train from Manchester to Milton Keynes, I read from one Crystal Palace fan that there had been an announcement on their train, run by the same company, explaining to passengers that the journey may be uncomfortable due to there being football fans on the train. I’m not sure how they would have reacted if staff had come into our coach; I sat with a Watford fan on that part of the journey. Whatever next? Forcing us to travel to an away game by bus?
I’ve had a bit of confidence restored in recent weeks and someone said to me a couple of days ago that we are looking more like Burnley again. Sean Dyche must have picked up on this because what he so often does is pick the same team and that’s exactly what he did yesterday although, in fairness, with injuries and suspensions, there wasn’t too much he could have done in terms of changes. We even had the same seven substitutes.
Ahead of the game, the home club honoured former manager Graham Taylor and that was followed with a minute’s silence for former Watford player Duncan Welbourne who passed away during last week at the age of 78. Welbourne made a staggering 457, including 411 in the league, for Watford, a total only bettered by Luther Blissett.
I don’t know whether all the pre-match events inspired them or not but Watford certainly started off on the front foot and for the first ten minutes or so I thought we were in for a torrid afternoon. Tom Heaton made one outstanding save to deny Gerard Deulofeu and then James Tarkowski cleared off the line.
Somehow we survived the early onslaught and then the game changed completely. At no point during the remainder of the game could Watford ever have considered themselves to be on top as we simply took over for long spells and dominated the game with some outstanding football.
There was little to be critical of. We defended well when we had to, we took over in midfield where Ashley Westwood, in particular, stood out. The two front men worked their socks of pulling Watford defenders here, there and everywhere and I’m not sure I’ve seen Chris Wood have a better game for us. The only thing missing was a goal. We had our chances, two in particular for Ashley Barnes, but we didn’t take one of them and just before half time it could have been very costly when Heaton had another save to make.
I really thought that first half was as good a half as I’d seen from us away from home since the opening day of last season at Chelsea, when we tore them apart in the first half. My one concern now was whether we’d seen the best of us and it could allow Watford back in after the break.
There were no need for those concerns. We carried on where we left off and took the game to Watford but again we just couldn’t get that goal. Jeff Hendrick saw a shot blocked and then he played in Phil Bardsley. The full back got the ball into the six yard box but it just eluded the incoming Barnes. McNeil missed a chance from close range, blazing his shot over the top.
It wasn’t one way traffic, not by any means, but we were much the better side although we had to be wary of them and Troy Deeney saw a shot saved by Heaton using his feet. By now it was looking as though it was going to be one of those days when we wouldn’t score and there was always the worry that they would snatch one against the run of play and take the points.
I recall seeing the clock go past 80 minutes and as much as I wanted a win I think, by then, I’d reached the point where I was going to be satisfied with a point. We got to 90 minutes at 0-0. There was no stoppage time at the end of the first half but this time the board went up showing four minutes; I thought it might be more given we’d had a number of stoppages.
All I wanted us to do was not concede, but down at the far McNeil got in a shot that was saved by Ben Foster only for Wood to turn the rebound into the net. By then I’d already seen the flag go up for offside. What I shame, so close to a winner. It being at the far end, it was impossible to see but the pictures have clearly shown the assistant referee has got it wrong. It was onside, it should have been a goal and given the timing I’m all but certain it would have been the winning goal.
We didn’t get it unfortunately and had to settle for a point. Even so, it was a good point, another one closer to whatever we are going to need. Some were moaning coming out that it was two points dropped but I wanted to look at the positives and there was one big positive in that this was a terrific performance from our team. I know it’s an if, but if we can continue to perform like this then there really won’t be any relegation fears come May.
I thought we were coming out of the slump against Liverpool despite the defeat, and it was similar when we were so unfortunate not to get anything at Tottenham. I know we haven’t played anything like a top three team in this recent win but we’ve been playing well, getting the results, and yesterday really was as enjoyable away game as I’ve seen in some considerable time.
If only he’d kept that damn flag down.
The teams were;
Watford: Ben Foster, Kiko Femenia (Miguel Britos 77), Adrian Mariappa, Christian Kabasele, José Holebas, Ken Sema (Isaac Success 56), Tom Cleverley, Étienne Capoue, Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu, Troy Deeney. Subs not used: Heurelho Gomes, Adam Masina, Domingos Quina, Ben Wilmot, Andre Gray.
Yellow Card: Gerard Deulofeu.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs not used: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Steven Defour, Matěj Vydra, Sam Vokes.
Yellow Cards: Ben Mee, Phil Bardsley.
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).
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