Saturday 23 February 2019

Watford held in Burnley stalemate following Graham Taylor tributes

The Hornets paid tribute with a complimentary drink for the club’s fans, and a scarf display in the moments before kick-off.

The Hornets paid tribute to Graham Taylor during the match (Jonathan Brady/PA)
The Hornets paid tribute to Graham Taylor during the match (Jonathan Brady/PA)

By Philip Duncan, Press Association Sport

Watford failed to deliver a fitting tribute to their former chairman Graham Taylor after they were held to a goalless draw by Burnley at Vicarage Road.

To mark two years since Taylor’s death, the Hornets paid tribute with a complimentary drink for the club’s fans, and a scarf display in the moments before kick-off.

But an off-colour Watford never looked like beating a rapidly-improving Burnley side, who even had a goal chalked off in injury time for offside.

Chris Wood had the ball in the net from Dwight McNeil’s shot, but the assistant referee spared Watford by raising his flag.

Abdoulaye Doucoure, who has told Watford he wants to leave amid reported interest from French giants Paris St Germain, was a notable absentee from the home side’s starting line-up.

Watford said the midfielder’s absence was owing to a knee injury sustained in last weekend’s victory at Crystal Palace, but it was an issue that manager Javi Gracia curiously failed to report ahead of Saturday’s fixture.

Doucoure has starred in the centre of the park for the Hornets this season, and his presence was sorely missed by a team that have now tasted defeat just once from their last eight league outings.

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Watford paid tribute to former manager Graham Taylor to mark two years since his death (Jonathan Brady

That said, Watford should have been ahead inside the opening two minutes.

Played in by Troy Deeney, Gerard Deulofeu was one-on-one with Tom Heaton, but the Spaniard’s shot lacked conviction, and it was turned away by the Burnley stopper.

Watford, perhaps buoyed by a lively atmosphere as the home fans paid tribute to Taylor, were the fastest out of the traps, but Burnley, who like their opponents are now unbeaten since Boxing Day, soon steadied the ship, and it was not long before they took control.

Ashley Barnes had the chance to hand the visitors the lead, but his header from Ashley Westwood’s cross on the half-hour mark lacked power, and Ben Foster averted the danger.

Barnes was involved moments later, and should have done better.

Christian Kabasele’s mistimed clearance fell to Barnes, but he failed to wrap his left foot around the ball, and fired his effort wide of Foster’s right-hand post.

Watford were too slow, too sloppy in possession, yet Burnley had Heaton to thank after he turned away Deeney’s half-volley from Kiko Femenia’s cross seconds before the interval.

The home side trudged off to a ripple of jeers from the Vicarage Road crowd, and it was Burnley who had the first decent chance after the interval.

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Burnley saw a goal disallowed for offside in stoppage time (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Ben Mee’s knocked-down header was met by an on-rushing McNeil, but he lacked composure, smashing his volley over the bar.

The drizzle abated but the football did not get any better. Indeed, Watford’s off-key afternoon was summed up when Jose Holebas fired the ball at team-mate Tom Cleverley’s ribs from a yard away.

Watford supporters stood to applause Taylor when the clock hit 72 minutes.

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Watford fans paid tribute to Taylor in the 72nd minute (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Taylor, who is recognised as the club’s greatest ever manager after guiding them from the fourth division to the top tier, was 72 when he died on January 12, 2017.

Gracia said he would toast Taylor with a glass of Newcastle Brown Ale – the drink given to him by Woking manager Alan Dowson after their FA Cup third-round tie earlier this month – if they secured the three points.

The bottle will go untouched on Saturday night.

Press Association

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