AFC Wimbledon 1 (Taylor 45) Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from Cherry Red Records Stadium.
When the dust settled following this painfully inevitable defeat, Charlton were left hanging on by a fast fraying thread to sixth place in League One. By gamely limiting fifth from bottom Wimbledon to a single-goal win, they defiantly held off doggedly pursuing Portsmouth with two precious goals to spare. The play-offs are still in their grasp. That's the good news.
The not-so-good news is that Charlton were outplayed, out-hustled and outfought by a gritty side who were willing to go an extra yard in their efforts to stave off relegation. The Dons won every 50-50 challenge; were first to every second ball; maintained their intensity from whistle to whistle. Their visitors, as the saying goes, failed to show up.
When lively Lyle Taylor capitalised on Patrick Bauer's ghastly error to score the game's only goal, he did so in the last minute of the first half. Though there were a total of 49 second half minutes available to find an equaliser, the Addicks were already a beaten side. Only the formalities were left to observe. So they huffed, they puffed, then went back and huffed some more. And they were blown away by more determined, resolute opponents.
At Bristol Rovers three days previously, the home side had been gifted the lead by Jason Pearce's woefully underpowered header intended for Ben Amos, on which Ryan Bennett pounced to prod Gas into the lead. Ben Reeves levelled before the break which, to some extent at least, got Pearce off the hook. There was no such luck here for his centre back partner.
In unchallenged possession outside his penalty area, Bauer disdained the option to launch the long ball, as Deji Oshilaja and Jon Meades, at the other end, did unapologetically all evening, but instead turned back with the obvious intention of routinely passing back to Amos. Inexplicably, his feet disappeared from under him, leaving Taylor to keep calm, carry on and coolly slot the up-for-grabs ball past the desperately advancing Amos. Playing out from the back is admirable, of course, but it shares similar perils with Russian Roulette. From time to time, there's a self-destructive bullet in the breech.
Chances before Taylor's strike were few but the Dons enjoyed what there was of them. As early as the second minute, Amos bravely left his line to save at Harry Forrester's feet, with Ezri Konsa reacting alertly in blocking Taylor's attempt to convert the rebound. As the home side continued to press, Will Nightingale headed Dean Parrett's free kick narrowly over the bar.
It's difficult to recall a shot on target from the Addicks, though there has been vague mention of one from Saturday's saviour Reeves. Doesn't ring a bell but there were three wildly wasted free kicks from Sullay KaiKai (2) and Jake Forster-Caskey, which brought with them a whiff of nostalgia for Ricky Holmes, twice Wimbledon's tormentor from setpieces. It's true that Pearce headed a Forster-Caskey corner against George Long's right hand post but he seemed unaware of his achievement and it might have been accidental. With most of the final ten minutes spent in undignified scuffling in the far left corner, as far from Long's goal as it was possible to get, Charlton's latest humiliation at the hands of pesky, troublesome Wimbledon petered out tamely.
But they're still a live entry in the struggle to nail down the final play-off spot. Upcoming games at home to Scunthorpe on Saturday and away to Shrewsbury Town and Portsmouth next week line up like murderers' row. If they emerge from that little lot still with a pulse, who knows?
AFC Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Meades, Oshilaja, Nightingale (Charles 34), Parrett, Soares, Trotter, Forrester (Francomb 82), Taylor, Pigott (Barcham 71). Not used: McDonnell, Abdou, Kaja, Kennedy. Booked: Taylor.
Charlton: Amos, Konsa, Pearce, Bauer, Page, Aribo, Kaikai (Ajose 80), Forster-Caskey, Mavididi (Magennis 56), Reeves (Marshall 70), Zyro. Not used: Phillips, Dijksteel, Dasilva, Lennon. Booked: Pearce.
Referee: C. Hicks.
Att: 4,457 (745 visiting).