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Burnley 2 Watford 0 (26/09/2016) 27/09/2016

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- Ahhh, how to start.  What to write.  Those of you who were there know how it was, those of you who weren’t probably had better views of the brushwork if not the canvas, none of you will be particularly inclined to spend time reflecting on the occasion.

So let’s just get on with it and where better place to start – indeed, where better place to start anything much – than Burnley cricket club.  I don’t “do” minority sports, as regular readers may know, but a cricket club in the absence of actual cricket is a fine thing.  It’s perhaps unreasonable to be overly harsh about Burnley, a town which I’ve visited rarely, fleetingly and not terribly recently (Sean Dyche’s Watford bow in 2011 the last)… but one can’t help but feel that much of the pleasantness that this area of East Lancashire has to offer has been concentrated into this relatively small establishment.  There are many fine ales at £1.50 a pint, a splendid pie, chips and gravy, and affable company and atmosphere. All is well with the world at 7.30.

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This feeling of bonhomie extends to the ground, where stewards check tickets in a cordon ahead of the turnstiles but cordially so, and don’t go for the body searches.  This is a relief, as Daughter 2’s Watford teddy – who you may remember from the West Ham report – was in my pocket and would have taken some explaining in the absence of an accompanying seven year-old.  Inside the ground the kiosk staff were decked in yellow t-shirts sporting Watford badges, and the intimacy of the venue – not to mention the understandable sparsity of the nether regions of stands in the circumstances, recalled times that were less successful but enjoyable enough in their own way.

Then, the football started.

2- The concern voiced by plenty – including, encouragingly enough, players and head coach – and contemplated by all was that the success achieved in higher profile, we’re the underdog, let’s get up and at ’em games wouldn’t necessarily translate to lower profile fixtures against The Sort Of Sides We Ought To Look To Take Points From.  Complacency was the concern, or rather that the adrenaline, the focus that characterised the win over United wouldn’t be visible tonight against less glamorous opposition.  As Dave reflected before kick-off, there has never been and will never be a circumstance in which Burnley away is an easy game – heaven knows we’ve been dicked here often enough not to head up to Turf Moor under any illusions.

But problems were evident from the kick-off.  Immediately, and for the vast majority of the 90 minutes, the home side exercised a strategy that was uncomplicated and thoroughly effective… flood the midfield, hare down possession, force us into hurried passes that our forwards never looked mobile or – yes – strong enough to make anything of, and hit lone striker Sam Vokes as often as possible to play off the scraps. It’s not a novel strategy, but Sean Dyche’s side executed it to perfection and our lot really didn’t like being on the end of it.  We couldn’t get out for much of the opening half hour, and the validity of our worst fears was confirmed by the pathetic bookings of Roberto Pereyra and Jose Holebas for mouthing off to the ref at the indignity of it all.

3- Nothing was working, anywhere on the pitch.  The midfield was overrun and Valon Behrami, who you’d want to be in full beast mode in such circumstances, seemed to tamely acquiesce. Defensively we were porous and unsteady, Vokes doing far better than he  ought to have been able to as one striker against three centre-backs;  Nordin Amrabat was targeted, and  willing as he’s been to adapt to the wing-back role  – now as deputy for the injured Janmaat – he was horribly exposed here, looking almost exactly like a forward trying hard to be a defender but failing.

As for Burnley, their concern will maybe that they dominated the game and deservedly won… but didn’t really create an awful lot for all their domination; it wouldn’t have taken much to change the course of the evening, and there wasn’t much to challenge the pre-season suspicion that Burnley will give it a good old go this term but struggle anyway.  Nonetheless, the spine was very strong, from Ben Mee at the back who had the better of Deeney, to Hendrick and the terrific Defour in midfield to the combative Vokes.  They finally took the lead from a set piece, and having gotten away with so much it was aggravating to concede so cheaply.   Nonetheless there was no disputing the merit of their half-time advantage, even if we briefly flirted with the suggestion that we might steal half time parity for a second away game running after a late rally.

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4- Of the few positives to emerge from the evening, one is Walter’s continuing ability to positively influence the game with his substitutions.  The corollary to that is that he’s not getting it right to start with, rather in the way that a centre-back specialising in saving tackles might be a bit of a concern.  Nonetheless, a happy habit to have…  here he made a very deliberate change at the break by switching to a flat back four such that Amrabat pushed up on the right flank with Zuñiga now filling the space behind him.  The Colombian had a decent enough half looking largely neat and tidy in possession and as forceful and deliberate as he had last weekend; the new shape seemed to work too as we looked much more aggressive, potent even.  Until, of course, we took a generous-spirited approach to marking at another set piece and the Clarets were two-up.

After which, so much bluster.  We did get better…  Isaac Success was brought on for Amrabat and immediately added some much-needed menace to our attacking play.  We’ve described him before as a heavyweight boxer who moves like an ice skater, and the weather conditions – a steady, contemplative shower lasted much of the evening – contributed further to this suggestion by creating a slick surface that he slid across effortlessly.  He’s young and he’s raw but he was bright and positive again; difficult to escape the reflection, given Ighalo’s miserable and immobile evening, that for competition from the bench to have its desired impact on the squad it needs to be exercised when someone’s off his game.  Iggy’s had a few too many games like this.  We had a good spell after about an hour, the best of the chances falling to Deeney who was first denied by a fine saving challenge, then failed to get enough power to a header after Pereyra had swivelled into space and dropped in a peach of a cross.  Burnley were still threatening further punishment, the faultless Gomes denying Defour, but when Kenedy debuted for Pereyra – who was perhaps lucky not to have received a second yellow shortly before for a bad challenge and whose removal was being urged from the away end with Saturday in mind – we were on top for the first time.  Briefly, inconclusively, but with Kenedy on the right and Success on the left both slaloming through to cut inside onto their weaker feet we looked a threat at last.  Not enough, not nearly enough on the night.  But something.

5- The gents in the back of the stand after the match was rammed and silent, but for the contemplative hiss of urine against urinal.  From somewhere against a distant wall someone offered encouragement:  “At least it’s not a six and a half hour drive home or anything”, to much laughter.

We did it in closer to five, creeping in at 3:15 after taking time to escape from the claw of Manchester (thanks, Dave) and an unscheduled detour on realising that the Satnav was heading us towards Snake Pass in the pissing rain, which had returned with a vengeance.  As my brother later pointed out, it could have “got all Caradhras on us”.

The trip was survived by means of recital of club-themed obscure eighties footballers (“Rob Hindmarch”…. “Gordon Chisholm”….) and by very loud music.  As has often been the case, a good day out spoiled by a terrible performance. This has happened before, often at Burnley, and will happen again.  Enduring this is what makes trips like West Ham special.  It’s good to know that some things don’t change.

On the pitch, of course, we need a reaction.  Saturday would be nice.  Yooorns.

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Comments»

1. paullbaxter - 27/09/2016

Nice report as ever, Matt. Shame the same couldn’t be said of the match. I had two American colleagues with me to watch their first live Premier League game. I had downplayed expectations (neither side is likely to win the League, the food at the ground might be a bit basic, it’s a two hour drive from our site in North Wales) but it turned out I hadn’t downplayed the Watford performance enough. “Why do Watford keep giving the ball away?” they asked, genuinely perplexed. Then, as we walked back to the car through the drizzle, one asked if I had recorded the game, “Because you should go through the match and see if Watford won a single header.”

The main prblem I saw was that there never seemed to be an out ball when we had the ball at the back, as there was a baffling lack of movement ahead which played perfectly into Burnley’s hands. On the bright side Isaac Success looked very lively when he came on again and surely deserves a start.

The highlight of the game for one of my colleagues? When Vokes went down in the area and the guy behind us shouted “Get up you f**** p***”. Just like a Pittsburgh Steelers game, apparently.

2. Adam Segal - 27/09/2016

Time to drop Igahlo. Would like to See Kenedy and Success start on Saturday to add some attacking threat. Bring in Kaboul for Britos who looks like he needs a rest after baby duty (unless Cathcart can’t go). A much needed lift is required this weekend to erase what hopefully was just a blip. What worried me tonight was the fact that 3 Six foot plus defenders couldn’t deal with crosses. The goals were soft at best and were easily defendable. We have now conceded 7 goals from set plays , 4 worse than any other team. I find that to be little disconcerting Anyway bring on Bournemouth and let’s put them to the sword!

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3. jeremy ottman - 27/09/2016

Many things baffled and concerned me watching Watford last night, but there are three questions I`d like you to consider :
(a) Given the minimal risk of playing the opposition onside why did we not have a man on the line for the corners? It would have stopped the first goal and arguably the second.
(b) Behrami is, so far as I can understand , the `enforcer` of the team. Why did he pull out of a tackle in the second half?
(c) Odion Ighalo has been poor for much of 2016 and last night was not great, to say the least. Yet, if information is to be believed, he has recently received a large pay rise. If correct, are there any other walks of life where an employer rewards you for repeated mediocre performances by paying you more ?

4. Goldenboy60 - 27/09/2016

Starting off for Blackpool for a great weekend and a visit to my best music venue the ‘Soul Suit’, set me up for an enjoyable Monday night in Burnley with 3 points on a detour of the way home. After copping a new ground in Fleetwood on Saturday, I thought that this would be a marvellous weekend with most enjoyable things in front of me. And where would we be in the table after a 3 point take home. But football is NOT predictable and can kick you very hard. Yes a disappointing evening when perhaps we all thought the road had been sorted and we knew how to get to our destination. Those thoughts quickly disappeared as the game progressed.

I’ve seen lots of these type of Watford performances, and I have to say that last night, ‘the players didn’t fancy it’. This has always been a tough place to get points from, and last night was no different.

Totally agree with Cricket club etc. What a great venue so close to the ground, and on my 3rd visit there. Shame we couldn’t produce it on the pitch.

But Dyche was right. Burnley did a very good job. But why is it so hard to get points from Turf Moor?

5. Lincoln Hornet - 27/09/2016

One word report, abject.
What a truly abysmal evening which seemed to be rammed home by the weather on the way home.
However badly I feel after a performance like last nights I comfort myself by trying to remember a worse game I was witness to and I always seem to able to think of one!!! Last night I came up with a trip to Crewe probably about 15 years ago where we were 3 down after twenty minutes and that was how it finished.
I guess that comes with supporting the golden boys.
Onwards and upwards

6. Old Git - 28/09/2016

Coventry away, 1980, League Cup Quarter-Final replay, 5-0 defeat, that’s my worst away trip. We woke up that morning to the news of John Lennon’s murder and thought the day could not get worse. We were wrong.

Robin - 29/09/2016

I’d managed to wipe that from my memory. Thank you so much for bringing it back.

7. Robby - 28/09/2016

I was surprised at how many people assumed that we would get 3 points from Monday’s game; Burnley’s last defeat at Turf Moor was on the 5th December 2015, and they managed to lose only 2 games at home for the duration of last season.
Dyche knows how to organise his sides and restrict the opposition (we should recall the same from when he managed our own team), so it was frustrating to see the players not appear to be up for the fight.
Hopefully we will see a different Watford on Saturday, as Bournemouth also play with high intensity and in most areas of the pitch are stronger than Burnley.


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