Charlton Athletic 0 PNE 3
Three quality strikes gave North End a well-deserved win at The Valley, as North End put on their best display of the season so far.
Paul Gallagher, with two in the first half from a set piece and a rifled drive from a narrow angle, and Daniel Johnson with another superb left-footed effort from distance gave Simon Grayson’s side the three points they richly deserved.
Gallagher, given the captain’s armband, took the game by the scruff of the neck in the first half, opening the scoring after less than two minutes, from a direct free kick 20 yards out and doubled the lead ten minutes before the break with another superb shot driven from a narrow angle on the left hand side of the penalty area.
Whilst both the first half strikes were of real quality, the third was even better as Daniel Johnson put a home defender on his backside before curling a left-footed effort into the top left hand corner from 25 yards out to wrap up the points.
The Lilywhites, in all yellow, had made three changes from the side that took a point from a goalless draw with Cardiff the previous Saturday, Alan Browne, Eoin Doyle and Marnick Vermijl into the side, with manager Simon Grayson utilising a back three.
And the visitors came out of the starting blocks on the ‘B’ of bang as Adam Reach burst forward inside the first 45 seconds before being upended on the edge of the ‘D’.
Skipper Gallagher lined it up and curled the ball up and over the Charlton wall and into the bottom left hand corner, with Nick Pope in the Addicks goal nowhere near.
Gally was at the heart of everything positive and he threaded the ball through to Jordan Hugill, who was upended by Alou Diarra who was booked and perhaps lucky that referee Simon Hooper hadn’t pulled out the red as he could have been adjudged to being the last man.
However, this gave Gallagher another shooting opportunity, this time a further two yards forward, only for his second free kick of the night to take a huge deflection off the bottom of the wall, with the ball almost falling to Doyle, Diarra just getting a vital block in.
It was all PNE and Daniel Johnson saw a low shot that was fired towards the bottom left corner saved by Pope after a strong run by Browne.
It took 27 minutes for the home side to have a shot on goal, which, when it arrived, brought cries of derision from the Addicks fans; Tony Watt’s effort from 25 yards out having Pickford right behind it.
With ten minutes to go to the break the advantage was doubled. A Gallagher corner came out to Vermijl 30 yards out; he hit a superb volley that was deflected inches wide with Pope beaten. But from the resulting second corner the North End No.12 put over a cross to the near post which was headed back to him and he smashed a shot in from the edge of the box into the top right hand corner from a narrow angle- the effort having real power as it rifled into the roof of the net and the stanchion.
Just before half-time Gallagher almost completed a first half hat-trick. He received the ball 30 yards out and curled a shot towards the top right hand corner, forcing a superb save from Pope. From the resulting corner Alan Browne rose highest and smashed a header against the cross bar.
But just after the hour mark it was three and what a goal. The Lilywhites worked the ball out to the left hand side with Adam Reach winning a corner; the home side made a double change, but afterwards the ball was worked into Daniel Johnson, who checked inside one defender and curled a superb shot from 25 yards into the top left hand corner for his sixth of the season.
It was almost four at the mid-point of the half as Daniel Johnson almost doubled his tally for the night, drilling another shot from the same spot inches wide after some excellent and persistent play from Vermijl on the right.
In the closing stages there was chance after chance to make it four, substitute Will Keane, Jordan Hugill and Adam Reach all having opportunities to further stretch the scoreline, but in the end they had to settle for the three excellent strikes and three points to go with them.
: Pope, Sarr, Cousins, Diarra, Holmes-Dennis, Ahearne-Grant (Makienok, 61), Bergdich (McAleny, 46), Solly (c), Fox, Ba (Jackson, 61), Watt. Subs not used: Henderson, Ghoochannejhad, Kennedy, Moussa.Charlton Athletic line-up
: Pickford, Vermijl (Huntington, 70), Reach, Woods, Wright, Cunningham, Browne, Gallagher (c) (Kilkenny, 79), Johnson, Hugill, Doyle (Keane, 84). Subs not used: James, Welsh, Davies, May.PNE line-up
: TBC (TBC away fans)Attendance
: Mr S HooperReferee