Two more shades of Gray

He broke the deadlock eleven minutes after half time from close range after Bolton goalkeeper Ben Amos had saved from both him and Scott Arfield and then got his second with a really good finish after Arfield played him in to the right of goal.

Defeated Bolton boss Neil Lennon said that we'd won because we had a £7 million striker and they didn't and there is no doubt that Gray is very much making his mark at Turf Moor. That's four he's got for us now and with his two league goals prior to signing for us there is no player in this league who has scored more goals in 2015/16 season from open play.

He certainly helped turn the game our way against a side who, you will recall, are ten years ahead of us and were set just short of six years ago to move even further away from us by being improved year on year.

In truth they looked a poor outfit and after this defeat they dropped to the bottom of the league with North West rivals Preston securing a point at Deepdale against Cardiff.

Two more goals for Andre Gray

Ahead of the game all the talk was of cricket as England started to take wickets quickly against Pakistan in that hotbed of the sport, Abu Dhabi. Just a shame it goes dark early; otherwise we'd have secured the most unlikely of test victories.

I say all, for some there was next Saturday's fixture to consider. It's strange when the East Lancs derby is on the horizon when, it seems, other games can be pushed to one side with hardly a mention of the fact that we go to Forest on Tuesday. But we had this game of football to play, so cricket, Forest and Blackburn needed to be pushed to one side.

We hadn't been seen in action for fifteen days because of the second international break of the season, one we'd gone into with a good performance and win against Rotherham at the New York Stadium.

Sean Dyche made just one change to that match day squad with Rouwen Hennings coming back onto the bench for Fredrik Ulvestad having been given the night off at Rotherham when his wife went into labour.

Lennon decided to make changes. Only one was forced on him due to Dean Moxey's injury but only five outfield players remained from the side that had played in the 4-3 defeat at QPR before the break.

I didn't know what to expect from Bolton. They are struggling near the bottom of the league and have won only once but I was told they are starting games brightly. A look at their record this season shows that seven of their nine league goals have come in the first half and in their last two away games they've taken very early leads before going on to lose.

The information I had proved to be the case. They did start brightly and for the first ten minutes or so we hardly saw the ball at all. Having said that, they didn't really create much and the one real moment they had was when Tom Heaton tipped over a long range effort from Neil Danns.

It really did take us a while to get going but when we did we most definitely asked more questions of their defence than they had of ours and both of our strikers came close to scoring the opener.

Gray latched onto a long ball up the field. Facing two Bolton defenders just outside the box, he twisted and turned before going past them on the outside before hitting a shot across Amos but agonisingly wide of the far post.

Sam Vokes was closer. George Boyd found Arfield who enjoyed his best game of the season. Arfield in turn pushed a delightful ball through for Vokes who looked a certain scorer until his goal bound shot was cleared off the line by David Wheater.

Arfield himself fired just wide with a good effort but Bolton were still causing us some problems and there were a couple of occasions when we were thankful for Heaton having a good first half.

The last few minutes of the half saw us really push forward as we looked to break the deadlock. We didn't get a goal but we certainly ensured we were going in at half time in the ascendancy.

Bolton might point to the disruption of having to make a change with Jay Spearing, in fouling Arfield, suffering an injury that saw Mark Davies, who has been preferred to Spearing virtually all of this season so far, coming on as his replacement.

By now we looked the far more likely team and once we got in front no other result ever looked likely. That opener came in the 11th minute of the second half when Vokes played in Gray with a ball that was so reminiscent of the way he and Danny Ings, who was at the Turf watching yesterday, linked up during the promotion season.

Gray was onto the ball quickly but so was Amos, off his line and spreading himself to prevent a goal. The ball rebounded to Arfield who played it to Ben Mee. The left back got the ball back into the box for Boyd to lay off. Arfield was onto it but his shot, like Gray's was well saved by Amos. This time, Gray was waiting for the rebound and he won't get an easier chance as he shot into the empty net from close range.

Bolton should have equalised with their one real chance of the second half, but Liam Feeney, the same one who should have been sent off at Ewood two seasons ago just a minute or so after coming on as a substitute, missed the opportunity with a shot into the side netting. In truth, they never really threatened to score again until Tendayi Darikwa cleared off the line right at the end.

It really was all over when Arfield got through to challenges either side of the half way line down the right hand side. As he made his run forward I think his only concern was whether to play it left to Vokes or right to Gray. He opted for Gray who took the ball under control before hitting a rising shot home.

If there was a disappointment for Gray it's that he missed an opportunity to get a hat trick before making way a few minutes from the end to receive his fully deserved standing ovation, and probably the closest we did come to a third was when Mee somehow got to a ball in at the far post only for his shot to resemble a clearance.

Not even the arrival of Emile Heskey could inspire Bolton. The now 37 year old looked exactly that during his time on the pitch.

The only concern for us was an ankle injury to George Boyd. Sean Dyche says it will be assessed but it looks as though he'll be out for our trip to Nottingham on Tuesday to face the club who thought he couldn't see.

We'll play better than we did yesterday, we have played better than that, and we've played better and lost, but in the end it was more than good enough to beat Bolton and got us back to winning at home after the last game against Reading.

There were a lot of positives. We didn't really look like conceding and certainly manager, goalkeeper and defenders will be delighted with the clean sheet. We weren't always at our best in midfield and there were times, particularly in the first half, when the passing wasn't quite there, but then we've got a player who right now is having few problems in sticking the ball in the net and players like that, as we know, are worth their weight in gold.

We've two tough away games coming up this week. Forest is always a difficult place to go although we have won there twice in our last five visits, and then there's the other one next Saturday.

For now, we can be pleased at being joint second in the league and the fact that since we left Portman Road in mid-August no team has picked up more points than us.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Duff, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, George Boyd (Matt Taylor 63), Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray (Chris Long 87). Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Matt Lowton, Stephen Ward, Michael Kightly, Rouwen Hennings.
Yellow Cards: Joey Barton, Tendayi Darikwa.

Bolton: Ben Amos, Derik Osede, Dorian Dervite, David Wheater, Jose Casado, Neil Danns (Emile Heskey 69), Jay Spearing (Mark Davies 36), Darren Pratley, Liam Feeney, Wellington Silva (Stephen Dobbie 83), Gary Madine. Subs not used: Paul Rachubka, Prince Gouano, Josh Vela, Max Clayton.
Yellow Cards: Neil Danns, Jose Casado, Dorian Dervite.

Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).

Attendance: 17,632 (including 1,762 from Bolton).

 

View Short Highlights Below