RANGERS went down to an Andre Gray hat-trick as Burnley visited Ibrox in the Gers final pre-season game.
Gray struck from the penalty spot inside five minutes and then Mark Warburton’s former Brentford forward added sweet strikes in either half.
The Light Blues pegged one back with 15 minutes to go when Ben Mee turned a Michael O’Halloran cross into his own net.
Burnley took just three minutes to make the breakthrough, Dean Marney slipping Gray in at the mouth of the box. The ball was light meaning the striker was forced to check his run before Clint Hill hauled him down.Gray stepped up to easily dispatch his sixth goal in five pre-season games, slotting the ball down the left of Wes Foderingham.
Barrie McKay looked lively when he burst down the left on eight minutes to try and latch onto a superb cross field ball from James Tavernier. His pace looked to shake the Clarets defence but he couldn’t connect and the chance went begging.
Rangers made their first real impact through Niko Kranjcar when Burnley lost possession in their own half from a throw in with 12 minutes played. Lee Wallace collected to play a square ball to the Croatian on the edge of the area. As ever Kranjcar took time to tee up his shot before unleashing a low curling strike at Tom Heaton. The keeper looked beaten but the effort dragged inches wide.
Waghorn was next to try his luck. Tavernier looped a superb ball over the top and the attacker elected to try and nod it beyond the keeper. His glancing header was on target but didn’t possess enough power and Heaton held.
Warburton once described Gray as the best player he had ever signed before managing Rangers and he was proving his old manager’s praise was correct. On 18 minutes he doubled his team’s lead in devastating fashion. Scott Arfield cut the Light Blues defence in half to thread in the rapid striker, he took one touch to switch to his right foot and fire the ball beyond Foderingham.
Joey Barton was determined to make an impact against his old side and five minutes after Rangers went two behind he forced a low save out of Heaton. McKay took a short corner out to Wallace who shaped and squared to the former Burnley man outside the box. Barton went alone and drilled a sweet strike but it was straight at the keeper.
Foderingham was breathing a sigh of relief when Burnley broke from that and the Gers defence went to sleep. Gray picked out Sam Vokes lurking just yards into the box, he struck and the Gers keeper could only turn and watch as the ball bounced off the base of the upright and back into him.
Just before the break McKay turned on the burners to completely outwit Tendayi Darikwa and storm goalwards in the left channel. The winger whizzed a great ball along the by-line but Ben Mee was there to clear the danger before any Gers could pounce, meaning it was 2-0 at the change of ends.
Rangers were still suffering at the hands of Gray into the second-half as he bagged himself a hat-trick on 54 minutes. Substitute and former Middlesbrough man Lukas Jutkiewicz did well to beat Hill in an aerial battle and nod onto the 25-year-old. With the form Gray is in there was no doubt in what he would do and he obeyed as he rifled a shot from 20 yards to wrong foot Matt Gilks and nestle the ball in the corner of the net.
Kenny Miller was nearly in on 64 minutes but saw the ball snuffed out as he bore down on Heaton. He’d collected a looping ball that by-passed the whole Burnley defence from Kranjcar but couldn’t supply the finishing touches on a frustrating afternoon for the Gers frontline.
Warburton made wholesale changes just after the hour mark as six new faces entered the fold. Burnley were in a jovial mood and Dean Marney tried to outwit his former teammate Gilks when he saw him off his line. The midfielder looped an 80 yard free-kick up field and for a few moments it looked like it could fall into the mouth of goal but ended up rippling the roof of the net.
Rangers pegged one back with 15 minutes to go through a Ben Mee own goal. Andy Halliday picked out the run of O’Halloran who drove to the by-line to send in a fizzing ball. The Clarets defenders were lined up before Heaton but couldn’t clear and Mee saw the ball deflect off him into the back of his own net.
O’Halloran was involved again on 79 minutes when he squared a ball into the danger area. Tavernier perhaps summed up Rangers afternoon in front of goal as he swiped fresh air instead of connecting with the ball in the face of goal.
Lee Hodson had been one of Warburton’s six changes and produced a good ball over the top to catch fellow sub Harry Forrester. The 25-year-old was tearing down the left flank but had the ball nicked off his toes by an alert Burnley defence before he could strike.
RANGERS: Foderingham (Gilks 45’), Tavernier, Kiernan, Hill (Wilson 63’), Wallace (Hodson 63’), Halliday, Kranjcar (Forrester 63’), Barton (Rossiter 63’), McKay, Miller (Dodoo 63’), Waghorn (O’Halloran 63’)
Subs not used: Thompson
Goals: Mee (og 75’)
BURNLEY: Heaton, Darikwa, Keane, Arfield (Gudmundsso 45’), Boyd (Ulvestad 84’), Vokes (Jutkiewicz 45’) Mee, Gray, Marney (O’Neil 84’), Lafferty, Jones (Kightly 84’)
Subs: Robinson, Lowton, Long, Tarkowski, Mitchell
Goals: Gray 3’18’ 54’