Burnley 4 Watford 1: Cotterill's unlikely lads move up on the quiet

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The Independent Online

There has not been much money so far this season riding on Burnley to reach the Championship play-offs, but they are beginning to look capable of sneaking up on the rails.

A fifth home victory in a row ended Watford's 10-match unbeaten run in the League and also provided the perfect riposte following a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United a week earlier.

It did not start off as the most convincing performance, but, by the end, the qualities that could make the Clarets dark horses were all too apparent.

Burnley are generally solid at the back, where the vast experience of Frank Sinclair and John McGreal helped to keep a tight grip on Watford.

Jon Harley, another whose CV includes plenty of Premiership football, had his most enjoyable afternoon since arriving from Sheffield United at the start of the season, scoring his first Burnley goals with a free-kick and a penalty.

"It was important for us to be up for it and that's what we were today," Harley said. "I don't score many goals, but I'll settle for those two."

The full-back and his manager, Steve Cotterill, both paid tribute to a cameo display from Gifton Noel-Williams, who came on late in the game as Burnley pulled away to wrap up victory. "He didn't put a foot wrong," Cotterill said.

The sum total was that, even with their leading goal-scorer, Ade Akinbiyi, having one of his quieter days, Burnley still packed too much punch for third-placed Watford.

The Hornets have become hard to beat of late, but they looked a side with limited options on Saturday. They started with Marlon King on his own up front and even their half-time reorganisation had an air of desperation about it, with Clarke Carlisle redeployed from the back four to lend a hand.

It was also an afternoon that Ben Foster, the goalkeeper on loan from Manchester United, will prefer to forget. Beaten from a narrow angle by Graham Branch for the first Burnley goal, he then turned the rest of the match into a benefit for Harley by conceding the free-kick and the penalty from which the former Chelsea player scored.

Watford remain well-placed for the play-offs, but so, after this result, do Burnley. This took them up to eighth place, and Cotterill said: "We're four points off third place and we're delighted with that."

Goals: Branch (32) 1-0; Harley (42) 2-0; King (62) 2-1; Harley pen (77) 3-1; J O'Connor (79) 4-1.

Burnley (4-1-4-1): Jensen; Duff, Sinclair, McGreal, Harley; Hyde; Dyer (Elliott, 89), J O'Connor, Spicer (Noel-Williams, 68), Branch (Thomas, 88); Akinbiyi. Substitutes not used: L Grant (gk), G O'Connor.

Watford (4-1-4-1): Foster; Doyley, Carlisle, MacKay, Stewart; Mahon; Devlin (J Grant, 75), Diagouraga (McNamee, h-t), Spring, Chambers (DeMerit, h-t); King. Substitutes not used: Chamberlain (gk), Francis.

Referee: E Ilderton (Tyne and Wear).

Booked: Burnley Dyer, Akinbiyi.

Man of the match: McGreal.

Attendance: 13,815.

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