A third Turf Moor brace in a row from Andre Gray was the difference between promotion-hunting Burnley and a plucky Fulham side this evening. The former Brentford forward was at his predatory best in front of goal as the Clarets registered a fifth win in six fixtures – with the Londoners’ brave comeback, sparked by a superb Ross McCormack free-kick, finally extinguished by Matt Taylor’s stoppage time strike.
The win lifts Sean Dyche’s side up to second in the table and Gray, a regular scourge of Fulham throughout his Football League career, was at the heart of all of the hosts’ attacking threat. The Whites would have been told to watch out for his clever runs but all of Kit Symons’ careful preparation was ripped to shreds as early as the eighteenth minute. Welsh forward David Jones supplied a whipped ball from a well-worked corner routine and Gray rose highest to head home his eighth of the season.
The big-money summer signing was eager to add to his tally almost immediately, forcing Tim Ream into a desperate block – which had the home faithful optimistically screaming for a handball. It didn’t take long for Gray to find the net again as he latched onto a lovely through ball from Scott Arfield and rifled home. Fulham had enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the first period but struggled for penetration in the final third – they might have been three down at the interval had Joey Barton not skied a shot from the edge of the area.
The visitors, who have not won at Burnley since 1951, were much improved after the break. It took just six minutes for Fulham to halve their arrears. Tom Cairney cleverly played in McCormack, but there was still plenty of work for the Scot to do. The former Leeds forward’s tenth goal of the campaign was a sumptuous left-footed curler. Burnley still looked dangerous in attack – with Gray clattering the crossbar with a clever chip – and Sam Vokes seeing a header scrambled off the line by Dan Burn, but the end-to-end encounter was now much more even.
Moussa Dembele almost levelled matters with a venomous volley after a wondrous bit of control and, after McCormack had been thwarted by a brave defensive block, Tom Heaton made two excellent saves to deny the French teenager. The result was in the balance right until the dying embers of injury-time when substitute Taylor made sure of the points for Burnley, blasting into the bottom corner much to Symons’ consternation.
BURNLEY (4-4-2): Heaton; Darikwa, Mee, Duff, Keane; Barton, Jones, Arfield, Boyd (Taylor 75); Vokes, Gray (Long 87). Subs (not used): Gilks, Lowton, Ward, Ulvestad, Hennings.
GOALS: Gray (18, 37), Taylor (90+1).
FULHAM (3-5-2): Lonergan; Stearman, Burn, Ream (Kacaniklic 59); Fredericks (Christensen 78), Husband, Tunnicliffe, O’Hara (Smith 78), Cairney; McCormack, Dembele. Subs (not used): Rodak, Garbutt, Pringle, Woodrow.
GOAL: McCormack (51).
REFEREE: Andy Madley (West Yorkshire).