09 Dec Arfield steps up as Burnley impress with win over 10-man Watford
Scott Arfield stepped out of the shadows to become Burnley’s latest match-winner as the Clarets continued their eye-catching Premier League campaign with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Watford.
Billed as a battle of wits between Sean Dyche and Marco Silva, two over-performing coaches who were heavily linked with the Everton job recently, it was the former who enhanced his growing reputation.
Marvin Zeegelaar’s 39th-minute red card for a studs-up challenge on Steven Defour played its part but it was Arfield, granted a first start since October 21 only because of Robbie Brady’s injury, who provided the decisive finish on the stroke of half-time.
Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes both saw efforts ruled out for offside as Watford stayed in the game, though two weak penalty appeals were as close as they came to nicking a point.
Ben Mee was missing from the Burnley side for the first time this season after receiving stitches to a cut above his knee, allowing Kevin Long a rare showcase in defence.
Mee is an integral part of Burnley’s defensive machine – as a player, organiser and leader – but so too were Kieran Trippier, Michael Keane and Tom Heaton, the first two sold on and the latter injured. Understudies continue to step up, clean sheets continue to follow.
Andre Gray was also a key man in Dyche’s dressing room during two prolific seasons in Lancashire, but Watford’s £18.5million summer signing was reduced to a cameo on his old stomping ground.
Watford were busy but blunt in the opening stages and it was Burnley’s Iceland winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson, presumably happier than most in snowy conditions, who drew the first decent save of the game.
His curling effort was heading for the bottom corner when Heurelho Gomes threw himself into an athletic one-handed save.
The teams traded further half-chances as the weather deteriorated but an increasingly sullen, stilted affair shifted when Zeegelaar threw himself at Defour, lunging without due care or attention.
Silva hastily reorganised, Roberto Pereyra sacrificed for Jose Holebas, but Burnley still found a way through before half-time.
Gudmundsson whipped a ball into the box from the right and Jeff Hendrick’s clever dummy allowed Arfield a pocket of space to attack. The Canadian weighed the angles quickly and slotted calmly into the corner.
Watford were still able to get forward in the second half but found their opponents a fraction hungrier. Daryl Janmaat saw a tricksy run ended by the back-tracking Defour and Carillo dithered over a shot as James Tarkowski entered stage left to pinch possession.
Burnley had two further efforts scrubbed from the ledger as they looked to kill the game.
The first flag came against Wood, who turned home a Jack Cork effort from near point-blank range. The second was more keenly contested as substitute Barnes stroked home from 10 yards.
It was a neat finish after Arfield’s pass was deflected into his path by a Watford boot but, following a discussion with his linesman, referee Lee Probert upheld a marginal offside verdict.
Probert was also unmoved when Carillo tumbled to the turf under a solid challenge from Phil Bardsley, a decision which enraged the away contingent without obvious reason.