AFC Wimbledon 1 (Elliott 90) Charlton (Holmes 8)
Kevin Nolan reports from Cherry Red Records Stadium.
For the second, consecutive week, Charlton grabbed an early lead, again provided by Ricky Holmes, protected it capably for over 80 minutes but paid the price for spurning chances to consolidate their advantage. Four minutes of added time proved too big a burden for them to bear, with powerful striker Tom Elliott equalising superbly half way through the extra allowance.
With a bench devoid of outright defenders, a problem complicated by injuries to Harry Lennon and Jason Pearce plus the suspension of Lewis Page, Karl Robinson's colours were necessarliy nailed to an aggressive mast. All three of his second half substitutes were attack-minded, with debutant Stephy Mavididi particularly impressive on the left. The newcomer's brief cameo offered promise for the future but foot-on-the-ball calmness rather than hell-for-leather aggression was what the increasingly fractious circumstances demanded.
Flooding forward in their anxiety to finish off the Dons, too many Addicks were caught upfield as their hosts, with nothing to lose, broke quickly. A long clearance was headed on by Lyle Taylor for Elliott to turn sharply to the right of Declan Rudd's goal and dispatch a fine drive across the helpless goalkeeper into the far bottom corner. The scorer promptly marred his own and Wimbledon's joy by picking up a second caution for over-celebrating, not that the frustrated Robinson will be consoled by his boneheaded dismissal.
Starting brightly, Charlton crowned their early superiority with a fine opening goal. Chris Robertson's crude foul on Joe Aribo conceded a free kick, which Holmes bent expertly beyond James Shea's grasp into the top left corner from over 20 yards. They immediately threatened to double their lead but the irrepressible Aribo's shot shaved the wrong side of the post. Novak's tame volley into Shea's hands and Ezri Konsa's low angled effort saved capably by Shea continued the Addicks' domination as Wimbledon slowly settled. Left back Sean Kelly's low cross zipped unmolested across goal shortly before the interval but the first half belonged to the South East Londoners.
Ten minutes after resumption, Novak squandered an outstanding opportunity to put daylight between two tetchy sides. Put through with only Shea to beat at the end of Aribo's electric burst, the experienced forward shot into the near sidenet when a finish to the far corner seemed a more promising option.
Co-striker Tony Watt, sporting an alarming, Devil's Island convict haircut, was far more accurate after cutting in from the left to unleash a piledriver which Shea saved magnificently high to his left hand. A goal would have capped an excellent stint by the nomadic but undeniably talented Glaswegian who, deployed wide of Novak on the left, worked tirelessly up and down the touchline in both attack and defence. The 57th minute return of Josh Magennis in place of Novak suggested that their partnership might be Robinson's preferred choice up front.
Charlton's manager, meanwhile, had been the target throughout a bitterly cold afternoon of unremitting abuse from home fans who used his connection with MK Dons as a licence to use the kind of language guaranteed to frighten the horses. Surplus to a bulging press box and kindly positioned instead among the locals in the front row by jack-of-all trades Laurence Lowne, your low-profile reporter was ideally positioned to share a stirring pre-kickoff tirade from a grossly overweight, spectacularly spotty anti-hero. He had given Robinson a filthy piece of his mind, apparently, and had received no response from his supposedly cowed victim. You're invited to write your own version of events had Mr. Blobby and the big Scouser actually clashed in non-virtual reality. Likewise the gobby prat of a steward who confronted Robinson at the final whistle and will presumably be handed a P-45 for his pains. Mind you, the loquacious boss is used to it. He regularly runs a gauntlet of hatred from his own supporters at The Valley and on various websites. From limited contact, admittedly, he seems quite a likeable chap to me but to each his own.
Back briefly to the football, though, where the crushing disappointment of four points mislaid in added time collapses throws serious doubt on Charlton's chances of making the play-offs. Nothing short of six points from back-to-back trips to Lancashire to face Oldham and Rochdale will now be acceptable. It's probably too much to ask but hope is the last refuge of the desperate football supporter. And hope is all we -and Charlton - have left.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller (Barcham 46), Robinson, Robertson, Kelly, Francomb, Reeves, Soares, Poleon (Barnett 83), Taylor, Elliott. Not used: McDonnell, Bulman, Egan, Owens, Sibbick. Booked: Reeves, Elliott, Taylor. Sent off: Elliott.
Charlton: Rudd, Solly, Bauer, Texeira, Chicksen, Holmes (Mavididi 80), Crofts, Konsa, Aribo, Novak (Magennis 57), Watt (Botaka 74). Not used: Phillips, Dasilva, Ahearne-Grant, Jackson. Booked: Holmes,Chicksen, Konsa.
Referee: Carl Boyeson.
Att: 4595 (616 visiting).