Welcome back to the Premier League, Roy. When you consider that Burnley and Watford have scored 39 goals in 40 league games between them this season, maybe there was only ever going to be one outcome here. In truth, the biggest winners on a blustery night in Lancashire were Newcastle and Norwich, who watched their two main relegation rivals huff and puff their way to an uninspiring draw.
Watford have turned to Hodgson to try to keep them in the league while Burnley’s big January move was the arrival of Wout Weghorst. That gave supporters of these sides cause for tentative optimism that they could claim the win that would have moved them out of the bottom three. By the end, though, there was almost a sense of relief the points were shared on a night where the issues they possess were laid bare.
The fact Burnley’s best chance was assisted by the swirling wind, as Weghorst’s blocked shot got caught in mid-air and dragged on to Ben Foster’s crossbar, underlined the level of quality on show. Yes, the conditions did not help matters at all, but it really was not difficult to see why Burnley and Watford are entrenched in the mire of a relegation battle as the final months of the season approach.
For Burnley, with games against Manchester United and Liverpool to come over the next week, this result will be harder to take. “Two clean sheets is something to build on and we’ve got a three-game week so we’ll see where we go,” a defiant Sean Dyche insisted. “The performances are going to be key. We defended resolutely and there’s things we’re dissecting about the game, but at some point we’ve got to make it click.”
Dyche’s players were met by boos from the home supporters at the final whistle after a chastening watch. There was precious little in the way of clear-cut attacking opportunities and while Weghorst’s record suggests he will adapt to the Premier League, he and Maxwel Cornet will have to click sooner rather than later for Burnley to stand any chance of survival. The fact Ben Mee, who almost turned into his own net twice, is the third highest scorer in their squad with two goals epitomises their situation.
It was Watford who could take more positives from this encounter, despite the final score. This was their first clean sheet of the season in the league and while the better moments in attack belonged to the visitors, their clinical touch deserted them at the wrong moments. Hodgson, perhaps unsurprisingly for a manager with his experience, took a pragmatic approach.
“It’s a really difficult place to come,” he said. “I don’t think many will look forward to games against Burnley. I thought we probably did enough today to come away with a victory. I’m pleased with the way the players went about their work.”
Hodgson and Dyche cut forlorn figures at various stages as they watched their sides toil amidst the horrendous wind and rain which engulfed the stadium for most of the evening.
The closest either side came to scoring in the first half was when a deflection from Mee had to be cleared off the line by Aaron Lennon. Mee then headed wide of Nick Pope’s goal from a routine Watford corner and had João Pedro’s pass to free Joshua King been more accurate, Burnley could have been in even greater trouble.
Their responses at the other end were few and far between and the boos at the end spoke volumes. Both these sides are in trouble, but Hodgson’s arrival and Watford’s first clean sheet of the season perhaps offers them a brighter glimmer of hope.