Gray over FA ban and back on form, says Burnley boss Dyche
Andre Gray's first goal since August delivered another home win for Burnley and boss Sean Dyche insists last year's top-scorer has put the off-field issue which followed his previous Premier League strike behind him.
The 25-year-old's maiden top-flight goal against Liverpool four months earlier had been followed by the emergence of some historical homophobic social-media posts that led to a four-game Football Association ban.
Ex-non league striker Gray then struggled to regain his place in Dyche's team, but it was his 80th-minute volley against Middlesbrough that earned the Clarets a 1-0 success, their sixth of the season at Turf Moor.
Dyche is adamant that Gray has not been impacted by the suspension and subsequent spotlight on him, and was delighted to see that, in a game where he was otherwise largely anonymous, substitute Sam Vokes' flick-on came to him to blast beyond Victor Valdes.
"I don't think he particularly needs (a new start), I think his attitude's been clear that he wants to come in and continue to do well," Dyche said.
"He's cleared his mind of any thought on other (things) and he's been ready to go.
"He is a man that you like chances to fall to. He's got the freedom to miss - that sounds strange, but the best strikers I came across or played against had that. They weren't bothered if they missed a chance, they take the next one.
"You can tell by the way he's struck it, he's not over-thought it, it's dropped out of the sky, he's hit it instinctively with power and pace, low around the keeper's feet and it makes it hard for the keeper. It just about gets over the line.
"Credit to Andre because he stayed in the game where there wasn't a lot dropping; it was a hard game."
Middlesbrough dropped beneath Burnley in the Premier League table as a result of the loss and Boro boss Aitor Karanka fumed about the manner of the goal they conceded.
Yet it was not former Barcelona and Manchester United goalkeeper Victor Valdes who was the target for his anger, despite the stopper allowing Gray's attempt to squirm beyond him, but his whole team as they were undone by a route-one attack Karanka had warned them to take heed of.
"We've lost from one ball that we knew they played this style," the Spaniard said.
"We've done a lot of good things and to concede like that, it's frustrating.
"It was the things that we had been working on all week, the things that I had been showing them in the videos happens, so it's frustrating.
"Victor is an amazing keeper and played for Barcelona - you need to go to the last month and a half, two months, when he's saved us a lot of times. I can't understand why we have to criticise Victor Valdes."