Burnley 1 Watford 1
So near yet so far for the Clarets whose Christmas wish-list must start with three points following another afternoon of frustration at Turf Moor.
Sean Dyche’s side produced another slick performance against his former club with the return of Danny Ings and a first start for defender Kevin Long major plus points.
But having fallen behind to an early goal from Nathaniel Chalobah, the Clarets had only a Charlie Austin penalty – his 22nd goal of the season – to show for their efforts as they had to settle for a third draw in four games.
Led by Austin and a late, late show from substitute Sam Vokes the Clarets knocked on the door throughout the second half.
But with goalkeeper Manuel Almunia invariably in the right place at just the right time the elusive second goal wouldn’t come as Watford held on to enhance a record that has seen them lose just once in nine games.
With Michael Duff and Chris McCann both suspended, Dyche was always going to have make two changes to his starting line-up as the Clarets sought a first home win in over a month.
But the former Watford boss didn’t stop there as he looked to force the issue with the inclusion of Ings alongside David Edgar and Long, who made a surprising but welcome and sure-footed full debut.
Ings had an early chance to make a mark but couldn’t get a clean contact on an Austin knock-down after Ross Wallace had delivered the first of a succession of accurate set-pieces.
And the Clarets’ re-shaped line-up had to do it the hard way after going behind with ten minutes gone.
Unable to relieve the pressure from three successive corners, Burnley’s back line finally cracked when a headed clearance from Edgar, at the cost of a clash of heads with Alex Geijo, dropped to on-loan Chelsea midfielder Chalobah to volley home from just inside the penalty area.
The goal briefly deflated a Turf Moor crowd swollen by the ‘Dychember Day’ offer of reduced tickets as the Clarets hit a flat spot.
But with Dean Marney driving forward from midfield, the quick feet of Ings and the prompting of Edgar, Burnley impressively forced their way back into contention.
A combination of Ings and Edgar just failed to convert at the far post from a peach of a Wallace free-kick but from the corner that followed Dyche’s men were level as the half-hour beckoned.
With Marney going short to receive the ball the midfielder was shoved over by Almen Abdi and after Almunia had been booked for time wasting, Austin kept his nerve to steer home his third penalty of the season.
As Watford showed signs of losing their composure the Clarets maintained the pressure and the tempo with the eye-catching Ings looking to pounce after Almunia had spilled a Kieran Trippier shot.
And the former Arsenal goalkeeper was then grateful to team-mate Tommie Hoban four minutes before the break as the defender just beat Austin to a parried cross from Martin Paterson as the
Clarets’ top scorer sniffed a second and the prospect of a half-time lead.
But a second goal has proved an elusive commodity for Burnley in recent weeks and five minutes into the second half they were almost in need of at least that.
Watford had offered precious little as an attacking threat but following a break down the left a deep cross to Troy Deeney saw him twice test Lee Grant, who denied the Watford man a goal for the seventh game running and a share of a club record.
But as the value of the next goal grew apparently ever more important it was Burnley who went closest to getting it on three different occasions in a ten-minute spell as they went all-out for the win.
And each time it was Austin who almost broke the deadlock.
His first effort, a diving header after a touch of magic from Ings had released Trippier to cross, would surely have beaten Almunia had it gone either side of the relieved keeper.
But then after whistling an effort just wide following another slick build-up, Austin will have been disappointed to have allowed Almunia to save as he attempted to flick the ball past him following a mistake by Fitz Hall.
Watford were living dangerously as the ball struck Marco Cassetti on the arm inside the penalty area and with 20 minutes to go Dyche sent on Junior Stanislas to try and create another opening.
But out of the blue it was Watford who nearly nicked maximum points.
A thundering effort from Joel Ekstra from fully 30 yards smacked against the crossbar and then when Deeney was given another crack at the record Grant came to the rescue again with a smart stop.
That would have been harsh on the Clarets but with the winning habit currently deserting them they couldn’t force a winner of their own.
A weak finish from Stanislas looked like the one that got away but then in stoppage time Vokes again made his presence felt with a flick-on for Austin to see a shot blocked at the expense of a corner which Vokes met with a powerful header that Almunia tipped over with a point-saving stop.
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Lafferty, Long, Shackell, Edgar, Ings (Treacy 84), Marney, Wallace (Vokes 90), Austin, Paterson (Stanislas 72). Subs: Bartley, Mills, Stock, Jensen.
Booked: Treacy 88
Watford: Almunia, Ekstrand, Hall, Hoban, Chalobah (Yeates ht), Hogg, Pudil (Anya 90), Abdi, Cassetti, Geijo (Vydra 72), Deeney. Subs: Nueton, Beleck, Bonham, Battocchio.
Booked: Chalobah 26, Almunia 28
Referee: Philip Gibbs
Attendance: 14,896 (Watford 366)