Burnley 4, Bristol City 0

Andre Gray's first hat-trick in the Football League saw the Clarets sign off from 2015 with a 4-0 triumph against Steve Cotterill's Bristol City.

Monday, 28th December 2015, 3:53 pm
Andre Gray takes the match-ball after his hat-trick

The 24-year-old, who rejected a move to Ashton Gate in August ahead of his record-breaking move to Turf Moor, culminated the year at the top of the Championship scoring charts after taking his tally to 15.

The £6m man netted in the 37th minute and again on the stroke of half-time to help Sean Dyche's side consolidate fifth spot in the division.

Gray, who scored twice for Brentford at the beginning of the campaign, threatened early on after beating Derrick Williams at the bye-line but Elliott Bennett was on hand to hack the ball off the line ahead of Michael Kightly.

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Andre Gray celebrates with Michael Kightly

Following the second half collapse against Hull City at the KC Stadium on Boxing Day, boss Dyche made three changes with Kightly replacing George Boyd, David Jones stepping in for Dean Marney while Stephen Ward made his first start in 12 months at the expense of Michael Duff.

The latter, who had made just one substitute appearance in the league this season despite helping the Republic of Ireland qualify for Euro 2016 in France, almost claimed an assist when his cross fell for Scott Arfield but the midfielder skewed his effort wide right-footed.

The visitors, who had lost just eight times in 37 outings on the road, very rarely threatened and were limited to speculative attempts from distance. Korey Smith, Jonathan Kodija and Nathan Baker all found the stand before the quarter-of-an-hour mark.

The deadlock was almost broken after 17 minutes of play when Joey Barton stole possession in the City half, Sam Vokes threaded a pass through to Gray but a superb recovery challenge from Baker diverted the striker's attempt against the upright.

After Aden Flint took Arfield's cross off the head of Vokes inside the six-yard box, Barton hoisted his volley in to the Jimmy McIlroy Stand after Jones's set-piece had hit the wall.

The one-time Manchester City, Newcastle United and QPR midfielder did go closer to opening the scoring on the half-hour mark, however.

Ward worked the ball infield from the left hand side, Vokes teed up his team-mate and Barton's drive from 30 yards clipped the crossbar with goalkeeper Frank Fielding merely a bystander.

But the pressure finally paid and it was courtesy of the most likely of sources. Barton engineered the counter attack, Jones helped the ball on and Gray shaped a beautiful bending effort in to the far corner after spinning Flint on the halfway line and cutting past Baker inside the penalty area.

And just before the interval Gray doubled the advantage. The prolific forward profited from Jones's header, did well to work the ball out of his feet before guiding his shot past Fielding.

The away side pressed after the break, but failed to expose the Clarets rearguard. Williams glanced a header wide from Marlon Pack's inswinging corner while Kodija forced Heaton in to a low save once Barton conceded possession inside his own half.

The Clarets, though, were out of sight as the clock hit 71 minutes. Vokes lifted the ball over a back-peddling Luke Ayling and Arfield raced free before slotting neatly beyond Fielding.

However, there was still more to come as the hosts emulated the result against Charlton Athletic in their last appearance on home soil.

Gray had scored three hat-tricks for Luton Town in the Conference during the 2013/14 term, but he finally notched his first in the Football League after registering four braces at this level.

Matthew Lowton was the provider as the former Aston Villa defender rampaged down the right hand side and Gray swept home first time with his right boot to complete the rout.

Dyche rung the changes as Fredrik Ulvestad replaced Barton, Rouwen Hennings replaced hat-trick hero Gray and Matthew Taylor was introduced at the expense of Arfield.

And the Norweigan, who hadn't featured since victory at Villa Park in May on the final day of the Premier League campaign, threatened when his deflected strike wrong-footed Fielding but drifted wide.

Ben Mee, moved in to the heart of Burnley's defence, went close from Jones's resulting corner but his header just missed the target.

The home side were heading for an eighth clean sheet of the season but they were made to work for it at the end.

Baker headed at Heaton from substitute Bobby Reid's corner with time ticking down before Michael Keane hacked off the line to deny Wes Burns who clipped an effort over Heaton when prospering from Mee's weak back pass.

City skipper Aaron Wilbraham then struck the woodwork once Baker flicked on Reid's set-piece before testing Heaton late on when collecting Smith's throw in.