• Hornets fall to first away defeat of the 2016/17 season
• Burnley take first-half lead through Jeff Hendrick’s header
• Michael Keane nods home to double the lead early in the second-half
• Bournemouth next up for Watford at The Vic this Saturday
It was a disappointing night in Lancashire as goals from corners in either half condemned Watford to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of newly-promoted Burnley.
Backed by an outstanding 1,415 travelling supporters, the Hornets failed to produce in front of the Monday Night Football TV cameras and fell to their first defeat on the road this season.
Jeff Hendrick headed the Clarets in-front late in the first-half, and Michael Keane scored via the same method five minutes after the break as the Golden Boys struggled to deal defensively with the visitors’ set-pieces.
In the Hornets’ first outing since last weekend’s Manchester United win, Walter Mazzarri named Nordin Amrabat in place of Daryl Janmaat (shoulder) on the right-flank in the only change to the starting XI.
On the bench, there was a return for defender Younes Kaboul, who had recovered from a hamstring problem.
The hosts enjoyed the best of the opening 10 minutes, Sam Vokes seeing a header deflected behind by Craig Cathcart and, from the corner, Heurelho Gomes producing an acrobatic save to tip George Boyd’s dangerous snapshot over the bar.
Gomes wasn’t required when Johann Gudmundsson cut inside and sent a low left-footed effort just wide on 24 minutes, although the Hornets’ keeper appeared to have his near post covered anyhow.
Watford were struggling to string more than a couple of passes together, although they did have their first sight of goal with 25 minutes played. Etienne Capoue dinked a clever corner onto the boot of Jose Holebas, whose first-time volley from the edge of the box was blocked and cleared by the sea of covering Burnley defenders.
The Clarets took a deserved lead with seven minutes of the half remaining, and the Hornets will be disappointed with the way in which they defended Defour’s right-sided corner. Hendrick was afforded a free header and nodded back across goal, through Vokes’ legs and just inside the far post.
Frustratingly, Heaton was first called into action two minutes into first-half stoppage time, saving Odion Ighalo’s header after Holebas had slid a free-kick down the right-hand channel for Roberto Pereyra, whose cross found the Nigerian striker in a central position.
Needing a response in the second-half, Mazzarri chose to introduce Camilo Zuniga at the break, the Colombian slotting in at right-back as Cathcart made way.
Immediately the Golden Boys looked brighter. Amrabat collected a loose ball on the edge of the area and when it broke to Troy Deeney the Hornets’ captain stung Heaton’s gloves with a powerful effort driven towards the near post in the 48th minute.
Any hopes of drawing level were quashed just two minutes later though, and once again Watford were left to rue some poor defending from a set-piece. After his initial corner was cleared, Defour whipped in at the second attempt and Keane rose unchallenged to head Burnley into a two-goal lead.
Isaac Success replaced Amrabat just before the hour, the Hornets hoping the young Nigerian’s raw pace might provide some much-needed impetus in attacking areas.
Sean Dyche’s men continued to dominate though, and Gomes followed up a fine 61st-minute save from Defour’s driven shot by reacting well to keep out Vokes’ follow-up.
Deeney did well to find space between defenders Ben Mee and Stephen Ward as he met Pereyra’s cross from the left-hand side, but the Watford number nine’s header lacked power and was comfortably collected by Heaton.
Success’ willingness to run at defenders earned the Hornets a free-kick in a promising position. Holebas’ set-piece was cleared as far as Capoue and the French midfielder’s ball back into the box found Deeney just yards from goal, but Dean Marney produced a timely tackle to turn it behind.
There was a Watford debut for Chelsea loan man Kenedy, who came on for Pereyra with quarter-of-an-hour to go.
Gomes got a vital finger to Boyd’s effort from the right side of the box, tipping behind when an unmarked Hendrick to the centre might have been the better option for the former Peterborough midfielder.
Success once more threatened to unlock the Clarets’ defence with seven minutes to go, cutting inside Keane from the left and playing across goal from the byline, but there was nobody there to apply the finishing touch.
The substitute was involved once more right at the death, striking over from an angle after Deeney’s pass, but in truth the contest had long been over and Mazzarri’s men must now focus on reacting appropriately when they host Bournemouth this Saturday.
HORNETS: Gomes (GK); Cathcart (Zuniga, HT), Prödl, Britos; Amrabat (Success, 58), Capoue, Behrami, Pereyra (Kenedy, 75), Holebas; Deeney (c), Ighalo.
Subs not used: Pantilimon (GK), Kaboul, Watson, Guedioura.
Yellow cards: Pereyra (21), Holebas (37), Success (65)
CLARETS: Heaton (GK) (c); Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward; Boyd, Defour (Arfield, 82), Marney, Hendrick, Gudmundsson (Kightly, 93); Vokes.
Subs not used: Robinson (GK), Tarkowski, Flanagan, Bamford, O'Neill.
Goals: Kendrick (38), Keane (50)
Yellow card: Lowton (45+2)
Referee: Mike Jones
Attendance: 18,519 (1,415 Watford fans)