Photos: Burnley 0, Watford 0
The Clarets dropped to third in the Championship table after their winless streak stretched to five games in a 0-0 draw with Watford at Turf Moor.
While leaders Leicester City were beaten 2-1 at Hillsborough to Sheffield Wednesday, Charlie Austin helped QPR to a 3-0 home win against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth to push Harry Redknapp’s side in to second spot.
Clarets boss Sean Dyche rung the changes for the midweek Championship clash with the Hornets.
Dean Marney was still sidelined through injury, while news filtered through just before kick-off that striker Danny Ings was also absent after failing to recover from a knock sustained in the weekend defeat to Huddersfield Town.
Defender Michael Duff faced a one-match suspension after picking up two bookings against the Terriers, and David Edgar dropped to the bench. In came Kevin Long, midfielder Brian Stock,
and wingers Keith Treacy and Junior Stanislas. Dyche’s lack of bodies was epitomised by the inclusion of youngsters Steven Hewitt, Cameron Howieson and Cameron Dummigan in the squad.
Visitors Watford hadn’t won in six outings, and it was clear that Hornets boss Gianfranco Zola was feeling the pressure when employing a system that lacked invention.
With skipper Troy Deeney playing as the lone striker, he found himself isolated and frustrated as the away side struggled to find a route out of their own half.
The Clarets had to be patient, with Watford sitting deep, and they opted to work the flanks in a bid to get beyond their opponents.
The worst warning shot came from the left boot of Kieran Trippier, with the full-back’s cross flashing over the head of Sam Vokes and just beyond Treacy at the far post.
A Stanislas corner then fizzed across the face of goal, with Vokes applying a touch, before Scott Arfield, playing off Vokes, scooped over the bar from the edge of the box.
Watford rarely threatened, but they were gifted an opportunity when Dave Jones’s mis-placed pass was pounced on by Lewis McGugan who slipped in Cristian Battocchio, but Tom Heaton raced off his line and spread himself to save at the feet of the Italy Under 21 international.
Jonathan Bond then saved comfortably from Trippier’s speculative free-kick, falling low to his right to gather at his post after Stock was felled by Battocchio.
The Hornets stopper was called in to action again when Arfield turned Trippier’s cross towards the near post, with Bond shaken but not stirred as he was equal to the effort.
The next foray forward from the home side started with captain Jason Shackell at the back, and Stock, Arfield and Stanislas all became involved in the build up which led to Trippier’s centre being fired over by Jones via a deflection off Nyron Nosworthy. From Stanislas’s resulting corner, Shackell headed over the angle unchallenged.
The closest the home side went to breaking the deadlock arrived in the latter stages of the half, when Shackell and Ben Mee worked the ball in to Treacy behind Hector Bellerin and his cross was met by Arfield who nipped ahead of his marker Joel Ekstrand but his header was tipped around the upright by Bond.
And the final action of the first period saw Treacy cut inside past Battocchio on to his left boot to sting the palms of Bond with a 20-yard drive.
As expected, after keeping the Clarets out in the opening half, Zola was a bit more imaginitive after the break and pressed with more intention, committing men forward to support Deeney.
McGugan’s dangerous set-piece span awkwardly around the far post after taking a nick of the out-stretched boot of Mee - with Heaton rendered a spectator. McGugan went close again moments later when meeting Marco Cassetti’s centre with a cushioned volley, but Heaton plunged to his right to save at his post.
Cassetti proved the dangerman again when springing forward from the back, and when his cross was stabbed in to the path of Sean Murray by Shackell, team-mate Mee threw himself at the shot to make a spectacular block.
The Clarets had a reprieve when Arfield latched on to a loose ball on the right-hand side, stepped past Ekstrand and crossed towards Vokes who pressurised Nosworthy in to hacking the ball from underneath his own crossbar.
The game opened up as both sides pushed, though both were guilty of wayward distribution. On one such occasion, Shackell was punished for being uneconomical in possession and the away side broke through Battocchio who fed a pass between Long and Mee to Murray, and as his cross fell to an unmarked McGugan at the back post, Mee dropped back to the line to head the half-volley to safety.
Michael Kightly and Hewitt replaced Treacy and Stanislas respectively while Diego Fabbrini and Daniel Pudil were introduced for the visitors at the expense of Murray and Cassetti.
The Clarets mounted the pressure as the game drew to a close, but Watford defended resolutely. It was a first clean sheet in six outings for the Clarets, but they’ll be hoping to get back to winning ways when they entertain Barnsley on Saturday.