Tom Cleverley marked his 33rd birthday with the only goal of the game as 10-man Watford defeated Burnley to move top of the Sky Bet Championship.
Captain Cleverley slotted home on the stroke of half-time to put the Hornets ahead in the battle between two teams looking to make an immediate return to the Premier League following their relegations last season.
Hassane Kamara was shown a straight red card for a professional foul nine minutes from time but the Clarets could not get the better of home goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann and succumbed to their first defeat under Vincent Kompany.
Watford handed a first start to former Spain defender Mario Gaspar and an immediate debut to Leicester loanee Hamza Choudhury while summer signing Manuel Benson started for the first time for Burnley.
There was no sign of Emmanuel Dennis in the Watford squad however as a move to Nottingham Forest was “progressing”, according to Watford boss Rob Edwards, who has loaned fellow forward Ashley Fletcher to Wigan for the season.
The heat was a likely factor in the low quality threshold early on, with Ismaila Sarr, scorer of a wonder goal from the halfway line at West Brom last week, guilty of blasting over the Burnley bar.
Fortunately for Watford, Cleverley was not so profligate when he was presented with his chance as he slotted the hosts ahead in first-half stoppage time.
Sarr found Ken Sema in space on the right of the box and his cutback was perfect for the Watford skipper to side-foot home from 12 yards.
Cleverley had been hurt by a challenge in the act of scoring however and did not reappear for the second half.
Burnley almost equalised five minutes into the second period when Samuel Bastien played Josh Brownhill in on the left of the box but Bachmann stuck out a leg to make the first of many excellent saves.
Bastien fired wide on the turn from Burnley’s next attack of note and Brownhill spooned another chance over from the edge of the box.
Bachmann denied Brownhill once more with his legs as Burnley pushed forward for an equaliser.
Kamara was sent off with nine minutes remaining for a professional foul on Vitinho, the Burnley substitute. The left-back’s poor touch allowed his opponent to sprint towards goal and Kamara pulled him back by the shirt before he could reach the box.
Burnley fans thought they had scored from Brownhill’s free-kick but Bachmann reacted superbly to tip it round a post.
It was not Brownhill’s night as he finally beat Bachmann in stoppage time only to see the ball bounce back off the bar and Burnley’s final chance was side-footed straight at the keeper by substitute Luke McNally.
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