PHOTOS: Watford 3, Burnley 3
BURNLEY boss Sean Dyche was greeted with vociferous applause on his return to Vicarage Road by the home crowd.
But the Hornets support may not be too appreciative of their former boss if Sam Vokes's late strike in the six-goal thriller on Good Friday puts a sting in their push for the Premier League.
Dyche made three changes from the side that came within seconds of ending the East Lancashire voodoo against Rovers before the international break as Danny Lafferty replaced the suspended Mee, Danny Ings stepped in for Martin Paterson while Kevin Long was drafted in to the starting XI following injury to Michael Duff prior to kick-off.
The good Friday fixture got off to the best possible start for the away side as leading scorer Charlie Austin broke the deadlock within the first minute. Ross Wallace's sweeping attempt from Ings's centre was blocked and with goalkeeper Jonathan Bond already committed, Austin tucked the ball away with ease from close range.
The hosts, under the guidance of Italian legend Gianfranco Zola, played with the expected vibrancy and flair of a side that has glided towards the summit of the Championship.
And it didn't take long for Watford to equalise - just five minutes in fact- as Ikechi Anya dazzled Kieran Trippier with his quick, rhythmic feet before feeding the ball in to skipper Troy Deeney who rifled a right-footed effort in to the corner from the edge of the box, ending a six game goal drought.
However, the Clarets refused to be intimidated by their talented hosts as they got the ball down and played through their hosts, getting the ball in-behind the full backs.
Austin almost restored Burnley's lead when his fierce header from Wallace's corner was well saved from point blank range by Bond who dropped to block the effort in the centre of his goal.
But the striker made no mistake in the 23rd minute as the Clarets' number 23 hammered his 28th goal of the campaign off the underside of the crossbar from the penalty spot once Marco Cassetti had flattened Alex Kacaniklic.
Once again though the Clarets failed to hold on to their lead as Fitz Hall's piercing pass in to the box found Fernando Forestieri who danced past Lafferty and Long before firing in to the corner just shy of the half-hour mark.
It was a fixture played with vigour, energy and pace as both sides sought the initiative. Almen Abdi's delicate half-volley was palmed away by Lee Grant while at the other end Wallace bent an exquisite free-kick just beyond the post, with Bond well beaten, after Kacaniklic had been kicked to the turf.
Watford almost took the lead before the break when Trippier gifted Deeney possession on the edge of the box and after his effort was palmed away by Grant, the rebound was pounced on by Abdi who lashed wide of the far post.
Then, in the closing stages of the first half, Deeney beat Grant to a loose ball and lifted an effort over his head which came back off the bar.
The second half was a quieter affair in comparison to the first in terms of goals, but there was still plenty of action.
Though it was Watford who pressed, it was the Clarets who crafted the best opening of the second half when Fulham loanee Kacaniklic profited from Bond's poor clearance, exchanged passes with Ings, but from just six yards out he tamely side-footed the ball in to the arms of the keeper.
Watford were full of craft in the centre of the park, their forays forward intricate and inventive but they struggled to create genuine openings.
Long hacked down Forestieri on the angle of the box, which earned a caution from referee David Coote, after McCann had conceded possession on the half way line, and from the resulting set-piece Abdi swung the ball in to the side-netting as Grant scrambled to his post.
Hornets' full back Matthew Briggs was next to threaten as he was allowed an easy, uncontested passage in to the box but his drilled centre was touched wide of the post by Long.
Zola's side continued to be troublesome as Grant did well to stoop low and thwart Deeney's powerful header before Battocchio was denied from close range as he attempted to lash the ball in at the near post.
However, that pressure paid off when substitute Lloyd Doyley freed Battocchio down the right and his cross found Forestieri lurking who scored his second of the afternoon with a measured effort across Grant which nestled in the corner.
That prompted a change as Dyche introduced Vokes and Paterson at the expense of Wallace and Kacaniklic and it breathed new life in to the Clarets from an attacking perspective.
Bond had been rendered a spectator for much of the second period but in injury time he was beaten by an alert Welshman. Grant's long clearance was flicked on by Austin and Vokes stormed in to the box, stabbed the ball past Briggs and thumped the ball in to the bottom corner to send 523 Clarets fans in to raptures after stealing a point in a lively 3-3 draw.