Andre Gray volleyed in his second Premier League goal 10 minutes from time to earn Burnley a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at Turf Moor.
The former non-league forward had not scored since netting against Liverpool in August, after which historical homophobic posts on social media came to light that saw the Football Association hand him a four-game ban.
Last year’s Championship player of the year has not been a regular since returning, but he provided the key contribution in a dull affair here with a late strike that earned the Clarets a sixth home win of the season.
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.”
Burnley boss Sean Dyche is adamant that Gray has not been impacted by the suspension and subsequent spotlight on him,
“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.
“Credit to Andre because he stayed in the game where there wasn’t a lot dropping; it was a hard game.”
Burnley: Heaton, Flanagan, Keane, Mee, Ward, Boyd, Marney (Defour 75), Hendrick, Arfield (Gudmundsson 77), Gray, Barnes (Vokes 66). Unused substitutes: Kightly, Robinson, Tarkowski, Darikwa.
Middlesbrough: Valdes, Barragan, Chambers, Gibson, Da Silva, Forshaw, Clayton, de Roon (Friend 87), Stuani (Traore 86), Negredo, Ramirez. Unused substitutes: Bernardo, Leadbitter, Rhodes, Guzan, Downing.
Referee: C Pawson (South Yorkshire).