Watford’s hopes of Premier League survival were dealt a blow as they lost a hard-fought contest at Burnley.
The Hornets, who had hoped to use a game in hand to pull clear of their rivals at the bottom of the table, remain 16th, a point above the relegation zone.
Burnley move up to 11th in the table after Jay Rodriguez scored the decisive goal, with a glancing header from Dwight McNeil’s cross.
The Clarets enjoyed the better of the early stages with Matej Vydra hitting the post and Rodriguez twice going close to scoring.
However, Watford, who won the corresponding fixture last term, will consider themselves unfortunate not to have gained a point.
Danny Welbeck was tackled when well placed to score, while Troy Deeney’s powerful header from a corner was cleared off the Burnley line by McNeil.
Having scored just once in a winless three-game run that, due to football’s suspension, dates back to February, this was a welcome return to winning ways for Burnley and their manager Sean Dyche.
It may also help quell media speculation that the 48-year-old is considering leaving the Lancashire club after becoming frustrated by the approach taken on player contracts and transfers.
Dyche oversaw the club’s return to European competition in 2018 – in the Europa League – after a 51-year absence but the Clarets have the fourth lowest transfer spend of top-flight clubs over a five-year period.
And with injuries to with Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood and Johann Berg Gudmundsson they were also unable to name a full complement of substitutes for their 5-0 defeat at Manchester City on Monday.
However, this victory, like so many previously under Dyche, was built on application and determination in the hot and humid conditions.
Added to that, Vydra, Rodriguez and McNeil provided the intelligent running to create several openings that, on another occasion, might have brought more than one goal.
Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster brilliantly parried an early Rodriguez effort to safety while the 30-year-old striker, who returned to the club in 2019, also saw a drilled effort cleared off the line by Craig Dawson.
But his clever movement was finally rewarded as he darted across Dawson to guide an exemplary header into the bottom corner from McNeil’s fine delivery.
More to follow.