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Season Review: Champions (Part 4)

19 May 2016

As February dawned there was no let up from the Clarets as they visited Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

Andre Gray netted his 18th goal of the season just three minutes into the half, before Kieran Lee levelled for the hosts who were boasting impressive home form.

That valuable point came ahead of the visit of Hull City to Turf Moor in what was billed as a key clash in the race for promotion.

The Clarets were buoyed by the news that Sean Dyche had penned new terms and it proved to be a source of inspiration, as Sam Vokes swept home to end the Tigers unbeaten run in 2016 and propel the side to within a point of the summit.

Controversy followed against Reading, as Andre Gray missed a penalty amid an unsavoury commotion where the penalty spot was scuffed up but in another resilient showing, a 0-0 draw was another point towards the target.

Former Watford and Birmingham City man Lloyd Dyer arrived to bolster the ranks and three successive wins would follow.

Goals from Sam Vokes and Scott Arfield lifted the Clarets up to second place with an important, hard-fought 2-0 victory over Rotherham United, who showed encouraging signs in front of new boss Neil Warnock.

Vokes’ fifth goal in eight outings put the Clarets ahead from the spot before the break, before Arfield clinched the win with five minutes remaining.

The win extended Burnley’s impressive league form to six wins in nine, remaining unbeaten in that spell.

And Vokes was on hand again to help record a 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest under the Turf Moor lights in a game where January addition James Tarkowski made his debut in place of the injured Michael Keane.

The next test came in the form of Bolton Wanderers and a breathless fightback was to round off a terrific month.

Liam Feeney opened the scoring for the hosts, but Andre Gray sensationally struck twice in the final 16 minutes to fire Burnley top of the Championship.

Sean Dyche was rewarded with the Manager of the Month award for February and any doubts over the ‘curse’ of landing such an accolade were quickly dispelled.

March got going in style as the Clarets recorded their first league double over East Lancashire rivals since 1978, thanks to an Andre Gray penalty.

The unbeaten league run now stood at 12 and the race at the top was hotting up.

Capital punishment was then inflicted on Fulham as an end-to-end affair saw the Cottagers fall to the old Vokes and Gray one-two.

The Wales international striker saw his early header cancelled out by Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele, but, having mastered the winning habit, Vokes drilled home a penalty to level things at 2-2 before Gray smashed home to clinch all the three points.

Huddersfield Town were next up and a clinical first-half display saw the gap at the top widen to seven points.

A dramatic 1-1 draw with Wolves followed when Player of the Month Sam Vokes’ inch-perfect header was cancelled out by Danny Batth’s stoppage time effort.

Despite that, it seemed nothing and nobody could dent that spirit, as it would prove in April.

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