AFC Wimbledon 1 (Robinson 87) Charlton 1 (Stockley 69).
Ten minutes into the second half of this eventful match, huge centre back Ryan Inniss set out from his own half on a solo run which was to have dire consequences for himself, his team and unfortunate opponent George Marsh. On and on thundered Inniss like one of the gallant 600 who suicidally attacked the Russian cannons at Balaclava. In his way stood the comparatively diminutive Marsh, who bravely stuck to his guns and braced for impact. Desperate to redeem a woefully heavy touch, Inniss launched himself studs-first, wiped out the unfortunate defender, then rose to face the wrath of Marsh's comrades and the inevitable red card brandished by referee Neil Hair.
Inniss had completed just seven minutes as a substitute for Sam Lavelle, himself injured while
fouling Zach Robinson and, in the process, aggravating an existing shoulder injury which will potentially keep him out of Charlton's five-game run-in. That's two centre backs, on which Johnnie Jackson can no longer depend during the dregs of this dreadful season. Nobody told him it would turn out like this but then he's been around the block a few times and seen it all.
Frequently vilified for a perceived lack of determination, meanwhile, no such criticism could be levelled at the 10 survivors who fought stubbornly to repel a wave of blue-clad attacks. Their creative spark Jake Forster-Caskey was sacrificed to make way for Akin Famewo, out of favour recently but, on this evidence, ready to re-affirm his early promise. A marvellous last-ditch tackle to deny the pesky Ayoub Assal an almost-certain goal epitomised Famewo's commitment to defend the lead which, against the odds as well as the run of play, Jayden Stockley had given the Addicks some four minutes earlier. And some goal it was, by the way.
Emulating Inniss's initially positive example but showing better control of both the ball and himself, wingback Adam Matthews flew over the halfway line, cut through Wimbledon's resistance like a knife through low-fat butter and reached the right byline. His cross on the run, airily dismissed in the Dons' official match report as "routine" was, in fact, precise, perfect and princely. Finding space between two defenders, Stockley added the finish it deserved by heading majestically past Nik Tzanev. From beginning to end - this goal was sheer magic.
The first half of a game which clearly mattered more to relegation-haunted Wimbledon than it did to their hot-and-cold visitors, offered little to prepare us for the heated affair that developed after Inniss' dismissal. It was narrowly edged by the Addicks, whose bright opening featured a handful of passable chances. In rapid succession, Stockley met a Forster-Caskey delivery with an overhead effort which Ben Heneghan smuggled off his goalline; Diallang Jaiyesimi's close range shot was blocked by Robinson after Forster-Caskey's clever flick set up the chance; Elliot Lee's electric burst to the byline made room for Conor Washington to force a smart save from Tzanev; Lee's ball over the top was run down by Washington, who was unable to keep his shot down.
Sent out after the break by new manager Mark Bowen with renewed purpose, the Dons were already on top
when Inniss was sent off. Previously untroubled Craig McGillivray was called upon to react sharply to Paul Osew's low snapshot, then Famewo whisked the ball cleanly away from Assal as the elusive playmaker closed in on goal. The indefatigable George Dobson was booked for chopping down Assal as the Addicks began to buckle under mounting pressure and a goal seemed inevitable. But it surprisingly arrived at the other end when Matthews showed the urgency of a bloke who has carelessly backed on to a barbecue, with Stockley the recipient of his flame-fuelled burst of energy.
With time running out in a game they could not afford to lost, the South West Londoners frantically sought an equaliser. They were temporarily foiled by McGillivray, who spectacularly tipped Will Nightingale's header from Henry Lawrence's corner over the bar. Then, with three minutes remaining in normal time, substitute Ethan Chislett produced a wicked cross from the right which left Robinson the simple task of heading past McGillivray from four yards. With eight additional minutes announced, Jackson' name made it into Hair's book for grumbling and ten Charlton backs were pressed back against a wall. They deserved their point.
Wimbledon's relegation rivals could have no complaints about the commitment shown on their behalf by Jackson's men. Shame they haven't always performed with similar spirit during a campaign few of us will wish to remember. And it's not even over yet... there's the small matter of next Saturdays visit to champions-elect Rotherham without Inniss, Lavelle and probably the excellent Ben Purrington, who ended Tuesday's second half siege a limping passenger. It's always the same sometimes...
AFC Wimbledon: Tzanev, Lawrence (Chislett 79), Csoka, Woodyard, Nightingale, Marsh, Assal, Rudoni, Robinson, Heneghan, Osew (Mebude 72). Not used: Broome, Ablade, Guiness-Walker, Osei-Yaw. Booked: Mebude.
Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Lavelle, Purrington, Matthews, Dobson, Jaiyesimi (Blackett-Taylor 64), Forster-Caskey (Famewo 58), Lee, Stockley, Washington. Not used: Harness, Leko, Fraser, Burstow. Booked: Dobson. Sent off: Inniss.
Referee: Neil Hair. Att: 8,184 (1,100 visiting)