Burnley punish sloppy Watford to fire up their European dream
Sean Dyche first heard the Burnley fans’ chant about being on a European tour when it was just “a joke”. The Burnley manager knows that it is no laughing matter now.
This latest win was the Lancashire club’s fourth successive top-flight victory, something that the club has not done in nearly 50 years. The Europa League is very much in sight, as Burnley are firmly in seventh place in the Premier League – with eighth-placed Leicester City to face next.
This performance was far from perfect and required them to fight back from a goal down with 20 minutes left. But they did it, pouncing twice on Watford’s ineptitude with defending set-pieces. It meant Dyche could enjoy victory against the club where he started his coaching career before they questionably let him slip.
“We have to find different ways to win and we did it with two set-pieces,” said the Burnley manager. “They’ve been singing that chant about going on a European tour for ages – it started as a joke and now it’s like, ‘Hello! It might not be such a joke’.”
Jack Cork was the eventual matchwinner, heading in just three minutes after Sam Vokes had equalised. Watford had deservedly been ahead from lively Roberto Pereyra’s opener – but they shot themselves in the foot. Vokes scored just 22 seconds after coming off the bench, which was the fastest goal by a substitute this season.
There was penalty-box chaos for Watford on the way to conceding both of Burnley’s goals. Javi Gracia, their manager, said: “We dominated the game but it wasn’t enough. We should have killed the game. We have to improve our defensive actions because we are losing many points in this way.”
There was good news for Burnley before kick-off when they welcomed club captain Tom Heaton back on to the bench. Dyche’s men had a goal disallowed in the second minute when Matthew Lowton crossed for Chris Wood, who was judged offside when he headed in.
There was also danger for Watford midway through the half when Aaron Lennon crossed, but in-form Ashley Barnes failed to make the required contact from close range.
Watford then settled into the game and Pereyra was twice denied by Nick Pope. Burnley needed to improve in the second half and they were gifted a chance when Watford goalkeeper Or- estis Karnezis dropped a high ball – but Ashley Westwood failed to take his chance for the follow-up.
Gracia’s men started looking the better side again, with Will Hughes having a shot saved by the busy Pope. Hughes was soon the provider for the opening goal, laying the ball across for Pereyra to tuck the ball in from 10 yards.
Burnley were level when Lowton delivered a free-kick, which Watford’s Adrian Mariappa unintentionally headed straight into the path of Vokes, who steered in from close range.
Discussing the substitution, Dyche joked: “I said that if he didn’t score within 30 seconds then he wouldn’t be playing next time.”
The next piece of set-piece woe for Watford arrived when Kevin Long nodded towards Cork, who produced a header that crossed the line before Karnezis clawed it away. Technology confirmed the goal. Watford had a chance to level when Troy Deeney struck into the side-netting, but their defensive disorganisation ultimately proved to be costly.
Pumped up: Midfielder Jack Cork reacts to scoring the winning goal for Burnley