BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Charlton Athletic maintained their 100 per cent start to life in the Championship with Lyle Taylor, Chuks Aneke and Conor Gallagher on target at The Valley.
It is the first time since the 1999-2000 season – when Alan Curbishley’s side won the title – that the Addicks have recorded two victories at the start of a campaign in the second tier.
And if you exclude the League One play-off semi-final tie against Doncaster, Charlton are now unbeaten in 18 regulation home matches.
So much of the talk had been about the future of Taylor in the final hours of the transfer window but their number nine stayed in SE7 despite Brentford’s best attempts to land him and he notched his second goal of the campaign on 25 minutes.
Debutant Jonathan Leko chipped a ball into the striker’s path and he stepped inside his marker to send a right-footed effort past Jack Butland.
That was the hosts’ only shot on target in the opening period and Stoke would go on to fashion the other big scoring moments in the first 45 minutes.
Scott Hogan and Lee Gregory hit the crossbar and post respectively.
And former Millwall striker Gregory had a hand in Stoke’s leveller. He got enough of a touch on a ball forward for it to pop up nicely for Tom Ince, who produced a rising strike which beat Dillon Phillips at his right post.
Gregory produced a poor finish in the 49th minute. Sam Clucas teed him up from close range but he failed to even test Phillips, producing a snatched strike over the bar.
And that miss proved costly as Charlton went back in front on 76 minutes. Josh Cullen was clever with his cross – banging it in with real pace in the hope of at least a deflection and that was exactly what happened as it nicked out to substitute Aneke, who calmly tucked the opportunity away.
The pick of the goals was still to come – and looked one that had been formulated on the training ground.
Cullen’s low corner to the near post was flicked on by Taylor into the path of Gallagher and the on-loan Chelsea midfielder drove sweetly into the top left corner of the net. Game over.