Memorable Match: Watford 2-0 Burnley - Hornets advance to FA Cup semi-finals
Photo by Getty Images/Ben Radford

After the most recent international break, Premier League football returns to Vicarage Road on Saturday as Watford play host to Burnley.

The Hornets earned their first victory of the campaign against Norwich City two weeks ago, and will be hoping to conjure some positive consistency as they look to ascend the table further. However, against a resilient and well-organised Clarets side, that will doubtlessly be easier said than done.

It's an important fixture for both, but one which is perhaps less glamorous than the meeting between the two back in March 2003, when Burnley travelled to Hertfordshire to face Watford in the FA Cup quarter-final. On a glorious spring day, the home side ran out 2-0 winners to secure their place in the final four.

Current head coach Quique Sánchez Flores will be hoping for a similar outcome in the league encounter over the coming weekend.

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Story of the game

Both of these sides were experiencing campaigns of midtable obscurity in the second tier. Despite a positive start, poor form in the new year saw Watford sliding down the table, and in May they would ultimately settle for a 13th-placed finish, with Burnley 16th.

However, none of this took away from the occasion — a vibrant Vicarage Road greeted the players as they jogged into their positions prior to kick-off.

The only notable action of the first half fell to the home side, when the ball was hoofed into the Burnley box and the Clarets failed to clear their lines properly. It dropped invitingly for Paolo Vernazza who laced an ambitious shot towards goal which didn't dip enough to trouble Marlon Breresford.

After the break, the Hornets continued to maintain a grip on proceedings. Marcus Gayle skipped past Graham Branch and supplied an exquisite cross for Heidar Helguson, but the Icelandic forward failed to make meaningful contact on the ball which trickled wide of the post. Time seemed to pause as the crowd, ready to leap into ecstasy, watched on in disbelief.

Helguson went close again as he controlled a lobbed pass from goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain, flicked over his head to evade the pressure of two defenders and unleashed at goal, only to see his effort saved well by the visiting shot-stopper.

Watford finally gained their deserved lead in the 75th minute. A chaotic goalmouth scramble eventually saw Gavin Mahon prod the ball to Tommy Smith, who bundled the ball underneath Breresford to send Vicarage Road into raptures.

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And their advantage was doubled just five minutes later. Mahon fed Helguson, who held play up well and drew a free-kick on the edge of the area. Up stepped winger Stephen Glass to drill the ball into the far top corner on his left foot.

The job was done: Watford were set to compete in the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1987.

Semi-final sorrows

Meeting Premier League side Southampton in the final four was where Watford ultimately bowed out of the competition — a first-half strike from Brett Ormerod preceded an own goal from defender Paul Robinson and, despite a late header from Gayle, the Hornets were unable to overcome the deficit.

They would, however, reach the semi-finals again just four years later, where they then lost to eventual runners-up Manchester United.

Meanwhile, their run in 2003 remains the furthest Burnley have advanced in England's showpiece cup knockout tournament in 35 years.

However, cup exertions will be on the mind of neither as they meet in a crucial league fixture this weekend.

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