A fixture that hadn’t produced a goalless draw in the previous 19 meetings failed to live up to its pre-game billing as neither Watford nor Burnley found a breakthrough at Vicarage Road.
Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu and Troy Deeney all had chances to put Watford ahead in the first half, but much to Javi Gracia’s disappointment, they failed.
Burnley haven’t beaten a top-seven side in seven attempts this season, and it looked set to remain this way as Ashley Barnes headed their best chance of the game straight at Ben Foster.
But the Clarets can take solace in the fact that their fine form continues, extending their unbeaten league run to four games, while Watford hang on to seventh-place on goal difference.
The Hornets had the best of the opening ten minutes — in which Burnley were sloppy — and Pereyra arguably should have opened the scoring after two minutes. Deeney, with an over-the-top pass, sent him through on goal with just Tom Heaton to beat, but the England international produced a stop.
Three minutes later, the Hornets prepared to sting again, this time a Jose Holebas cross causing penalty box pandemonium, though Burnley were able to clear without significant fuss.
Watford’s early pressure eventually subsided and gave way to a spell of Burnley dominance, resulting in their first effort in the ninth minute. Despite rising highest from Dwight McNeil’s corner, Ben Mee headed over the bar.
But what the Clarets provided in attack was perhaps to the detriment of their defence, and Sean Dyche was bellowing at his side to stay focused as they gave away counter after counter in the following minutes. None, though, bore any fruit upon which the Hornets could feast.
In fact, Burnley looked the most likely to score as half-time approached, a run of four wins in a row clearly injecting some flair into the Clarets’ performances.
Chris Wood demonstrated as much with a tidy rainbow flick to beat Christian Kabasele at the edge of the box and send Barnes through. But the Watford centre back recovered, and a last-ditch foot poked the ball beyond Barnes in the 23rd minute.
Burnley’s pressure held and six minutes later Barnes missed the best chance of the game. To Dyche’s horror, the striker nodded Ashely Westwood’s cross straight into Foster’s grateful hands. It was a shot on target at least.
Half-time approached as Watford rediscovered some of their early attacking swagger, and Deeney connected with a Kiko Femenia cross on the half-volley, but Heaton — as athletic as ever post-injury — got across superbly to save.
The Clarets have conceded just twice since a Boxing Day battering at Everton and it’s no surprise that the return of last season’s strong defensive unit coincided with Heaton’s return to the side. The stopper was called into again action in the 56th minute to deny a determined Deeney — who has four goals in his last six games — at the far-post.
Lucky Heaton was on hand in truth, as McNeil put a glorious opportunity over the bar from seven-yards out following a Burnley corner only a minute beforehand.
There’s always a moment that opens a game up, and this was it as chance after chance followed for the Hornets.
Stingers out and their prey in sight, Pereyra first put his curled right-footed effort just wide, before Heaton produced another save to stop Tom Cleverly’s low long-range shot. Both of which came within two minutes just after the hour-mark.
That seemed to sap the pace out of a game that had never offered too much, and chances were henceforth at a premium.
A minute’s applause for the late Graham Taylor — who passed away two years ago on January 12th — invigorated both the fans and the Watford players as the noise level rose. But no further chances came as a game of missed opportunities sank further into the depths of a prospective draw.
The clock ticked down and even the unrelenting chants of the away fans couldn’t inspire their side to find a winner, let alone a sniff of goal in the final 20 minutes.
The fourth official’s board goes up. Four minutes added on, it says. A roar erupts inside the stadium from both home and away fans, and Burnley had the ball in the back of the net. Scenes it seemed, as Wood finished McNeil’s spilled shot, but the assistant’s flag was up.
Alas. That was it as Burnley and Watford share a point apiece.
Featured photograph/Oli Stein