Late Burnley goals leave Watford cursing home form again as relegation fate is all-but sealed
Watford (1) 1 Tarkowski og 8
Burnley (0) 2 Cork 83, Brownhill 86
Watford found a new way to torture their long-suffering fans as they surrendered an early lead by conceding twice in the final seven minutes.
The result does not quite confirm relegation, but after an 11th home loss on the bounce, the outcome is inevitable.
The visiting fans were understandably cock-a-hoop at the death. They are now in with a real chance of staying up at the expense of Everton or Leeds, having now built a five-point lead over the Merseysiders.
Boos rang out at the end from the Vicarage Road faithful, who have surely had enough of this wretched campaign.
They knew their team could have no complaints about the defeat as Burnley were by far the better side overall and they have now gone on a great run since Mike Jackson replaced Sean Dyche as boss.
Watford had been all-but booted out of the last chance saloon even ahead of the fixture, but they set off seemingly carefree and full of promise – as if the shackles were finally off.
They made light of their predicament to claim an early lead when Kiko Femenia’s cross from the right reached Juraj Kucka at the far post and although his shot crashed back off the underside of the crossbar, the unfortunate James Tarkowski could not get out of the way of the rebound and the ball rolled in off him.
‘How shit must you be, we’re winning at home,’ crowed Hornets fans.
Soon after, Kucka was testing the Clarets’ defence again – his shot from close range blocked – before Joao Pedro rifled just over from just outside the area.
But Burnley calmed down and responded with Josh Brownhill drilling just wide, and Dwight McNeil almost earning a penalty for a trip from behind by Moussa Sissoko – VAR persuading ref Craig Pawson that the initial challenge was outside the box after he had pointed to the spot.
Matej Vydra – who started after Jay Rodriguez was declared unfit before kick-off – chanced his arm with a low attempt from an angle, which did not miss the near post by much.
At the start of the second half, Ismailia Sarr had his pocket pinched 40 yards out and Aaron Lennon bore down on goal before sending a hesitant shot at Ben Foster which the Hornets keeper saved well.
It was a warning of what was to come.
The Hornets badly needed to raise their game and Emmanuel Dennis ought to have done better from two promising attacks which eventually fizzled out. It was to prove costly.
Burnley came within a whisker of levelling on 74 minutes, when Foster somehow turned a point-blank header from sub Ashley Barnes onto the underside of the crossbar.
But the Clarets were becoming more and more dominant and they got their reward seven minutes from time when Charlie Taylor’s dash down the left flank ended with a superb cross which Jack Cork powered home with a header at the far post.
Three minutes later, and it was 2-1 to the visitors – Brownhill finishing coolly after being teed up by Vydra following a bit of head tennis around the edge of the area following a floated free-kick. Arguably, it had been coming.
Hornets: (4-3-3) Foster – Femenia, Kabasele, Samir, Kamara – Sissoko, Louza, Kucka – Sarr, Joao Pedro, Dennis. Subs not used: Ngakia, Troost-Ekong, King, Masina, Sema, Gosling, Bachmann, Kalu, Kayembe
Clarets: (4-4-2) Pope – Roberts, Collins, Tarkowski, Taylor – McNeil, Cork, Brownhill, Lennon (Lowton 89) – Weghorst (Barnes 60), Vydra. Subs not used: Hennessey, Stephens, Bardsley, Norris, Long, Thomas, Costelloe