Burnley manager Sean Dyche said it had “been an emotional week” after his side dealt a blow to Watford’s Premier League survival hopes.
The Clarets, who have had injury and player contract problems, were thrashed by Manchester City on Monday, with media reports questioning Dyche’s future at the club.
To compound matters a banner reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was towed by an aeroplane over Etihad Stadium during their match against City.
“Over seven and a half years we have built a culture and environment that behind it has a strong mentality. We bounced back after the other night,” Dyche said.
“I am still here. I have had this before, still working with the players. It has been an emotional week. Someone wrote the first time in seven years I had questioned the board, I think that’s pretty good.”
Burnley are now up to 11th in the table after Jay Rodriguez scored the decisive goal, with a glancing header from Dwight McNeil’s cross.
The Hornets, who had hoped to use a game in hand to pull clear of their rivals at the bottom of the table, remain 16th, a point above the relegation zone.
While the Clarets enjoyed the better of the early stages, with Matej Vydra hitting the post and Rodriguez twice going close to scoring, Watford will consider themselves unfortunate not to have gained a point.
Danny Welbeck was tackled when well placed to score, while Troy Deeney’s powerful header from a corner was cleared off the Burnley line by McNeil.
Prior to kick-off Burnley displayed a fan led video in support of Black Lives Matter with a players from both sides also taking a knee in support of the movement.
Burnley back to winning ways
Having scored just once in a winless three-game run that, due to football’s suspension, dates back to February, this was a welcome return to winning ways for Burnley and their manager Sean Dyche.
It may also help quell media speculation that the 48-year-old is considering leaving the Lancashire club after becoming frustrated by the approach taken on player contracts and transfers.
Dyche oversaw the club’s return to European competition in 2018 – in the Europa League – after a 51-year absence but the Clarets have the fourth lowest transfer spend of top-flight clubs over a five-year period.
And with injuries to with Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood and Johann Berg Gudmundsson they were also unable to name a full complement of substitutes for their 5-0 defeat in Manchester on Monday.
However, this victory, like so many previously under Dyche, was built on application and determination in the hot and humid conditions.
Added to that, Vydra, Rodriguez and McNeil provided the intelligent running to create several openings that, on another occasion, might have brought more than one goal.
Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster brilliantly parried an early Rodriguez effort to safety while the 30-year-old striker, who returned to the club in 2019, also saw a drilled effort cleared off the line by Craig Dawson.
But his clever movement was finally rewarded as he darted across Dawson to guide an exemplary header into the bottom corner from McNeil’s fine delivery.
Watford on the slide?
While Nigel Pearson has overseen a revival that has carried Watford off the bottom of the table and out of the relegation places, this was another reminder that their work is far from complete.
The Hornets have now taken just six points from the last 27 available to them and have slipped into worrying form at just the wrong moment.
Since convincingly defeating champions-elect Liverpool in February they have also managed just one goal.
And while Danny Welbeck’s athleticism was added to the brute force of Troy Deeney in attack, neither was given the service to truly flourish.
On the occasions the ball was worked forward to the pair they did appear threatening, with Deeney supplying Welbeck with a neat pass that the former Manchester United and Arsenal man should have done better with.
But aside from offering an aerial threat at set-pieces that moment and Deeney’s header represented Watford’s best attacking moments.
We were fortunate to be leave at half-time, we didn’t impose ourselves on the game. Our second-half performance was much better.
“It is a missed opportunity but no point in dwelling on these situations,” said Pearson.
“They are good at what they do and saw the game out. We have to move on. There is no point spending too much time talking about the negatives.”
Man of the match -Jay Rodriguez
Watford’s barren run
- Burnley extended their unbeaten league run at Turf Moor to five games (W3 D2), conceding just two goals in this time.
- Watford have failed to score in three consecutive away league outings for the first time since May 2018 (eight in a row).
- Only league leaders Liverpool and second-placed Manchester City have won more Premier League games in 2020 than Burnley (five).
- Watford have only won one of their last nine Premier League matches (D3 L5); they had won four of their five such games before this (D1).
- Of Burnley’s last 19 Premier League goals, 16 have been scored in the second half of their matches.
- Burnley’s McNeil has assisted more Premier League goals (six) than any of his teammates this season; indeed, the winger has surpassed his assist tally for the whole of last season’s competition (five).
- Rodriguez’s winning goal for Burnley came from what was their first shot of the second half against Watford.
Burnley travel to Crystal Palace on Monday 29 June (20:00 BST) in their next Premier League outing.
Watford host Southampton a day earlier, also in the Premier League, on Sunday 28 June (16:30 BST).