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Burnley miss cutt-Ing edge
MIDFIELDER Brian Stock said he did not fear where the goals would come from without Danny Ings.
The Clarets top scorer was rated doubtful by manager Sean Dyche on the eve of the game after suffering an ankle injury against Huddersfield on Saturday.
But Stock pointed to the goals scored by Sam Vokes, with 10, and Scott Arfield, with four from 14 starts, to show that they were not reliant on their England Under 21.
However, without Ings for the first time this season, Burnley were held to their first goalless draw since the visit of Middlesbrough in February. Ironically, the striker was missing on that occasion too.
With Dyche’s pre-match fears realised and 21-year-old did not get the green light to play, it led to a major shake-up in the line-up, and a largely young and inexperienced bench which included Steven Hewitt, Cameron Howieson and for the first time young right back Cameron Dummigan.
Keith Treacy and Junior Stanislas were handed their fourth league starts of the season as Dyche rang the changes on the wing, allowing Arfield - Burnley’s third top scorer behind Ings and Vokes - to take up a central position off lone striker Vokes.
An enforced change through Michael Duff’s suspension led to Kevin Long returning to central defence for the first time in the Championship since August. And with the continued absence of Dean Marney through injury, Brian Stock was brought in ahead of David Edgar to utilise his range of passing.
The changes did not seem to deter Dyche’s men initially. In their first home game in over three weeks it was clear the Clarets enjoyed the feel of familiar turf under their feet with a vibrant start, including dangerous balls into the box from David Jones, with a whipped in free kick, and Kieran Trippier’s delivery in open play.
Stanislas curled a corner dangerously towards the far post. The ball threatened to sneak in straight from the flag kick but turned narrowly wide, missing everyone in a packed six-yard box.
The wide man then had his route into the box blocked, but the ball spun out to Arfield who thundered a shot over the bar. But Burnley were forced on the back foot after conceding possession cheaply in the middle of the park.
Lewis McGugan seized on a stray pass to release Christian Battocchio in the box, but Tom Heaton was alert to smother at the midfielder’s feet.
The Clarets assumed attacking control quickly and brought goalkeeper Jonathan Bond into action just before the half-hour when Stanislas took a throw quickly to Trippier. After an initial attempted cross bounced off Sean Murray the right back got past the midfielder, Arfield met the cross with a flick at goal but Bond got down to it.
Trippier was the provider again moments later, this time with a low cross for Jones. The midfielder’s effort was deflected over, and Vokes had a free header from Stanislas’ high inswinging corner but couldn’t keep it down.
Vokes, who was playing the part of the lone front man well, looked to have found a way through. But when he slipped a short pass into the box when he used his strength to retain possession on the edge of the D, it was as if he had momentarily forgotten a previously ever-present Ings was not alongside him.
Burnley’s leading marksman would surely have snapped it. But Stock wasn’t on the same wavelength as Ings’ strike partner and the balled rolled through for Bond. The Clarets’ best chance followed inside a minute.
Ben Mee sent Stanislas sprinting down the left touchline, the winger delivered a terrific ball to the near post with his unfavourable left foot, Arfield attacked it with a powerful header, but Bond matched it with a super save.
It had been largely one-way traffic but Watford offered a reminder of their threat when the referee failed to spit a foul on Trippier and Battocchio raced through, but Shackell was on hand with a vital block.
There was more about Watford in the second half. But they were at the mercy of Mee, whose effort knew no bounds in either box.
He began by stopping a cross, although Heaton had to watch it wide as the ball threatened to find his own net with an attempted sliding clearance. Burnley broke four on three after a chance for Watford on the counter broke down. But Arfield, with options either side of him, was too selfish and went for a tame long range shot, which proved comfortable for Bond.
Watford went again, but Deeney’s volley from a left wing cross was well held by Heaton, with Mee blocking from the striker soon after when Shackell’s interception rolled towards him.
An unusually poor ball out from the back by Shackell was returned with interest, but Mee was in the right place at the right time to head McGugan’s volley off the line after Heaton was beaten.
Kightly probed but without real purpose after coming on against his old club, while it was a hard game for Hewitt to get into following his 80th minute introduction and Heaton was again required to save from McGugan late in the five minutes of stoppage time, forced by a neck injury to a determined Mee earlier on.
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