By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon secured a third round place in the Emirates FA Cup this afternoon with the swashbuckling double act of Lyle Taylor and Cody McDonald simply proving too much for Charlton.
Though it was a fine team performance from Wimbledon to win 3-1 against a Charlton side currently sixth in League One, Taylor and McDonald provided the edge that was missing earlier this season. The Addicks simply couldn’t handle the rampant front pair and it was great to watch the Dons pair working so well in tandem. It was a great way for Wimbledon to earn a potential meeting against one of the Premier League’s finest in the third round.
Neal Ardley made just one change to the side beaten by Walsall last Saturday with Tom Soares replacing Anthony Hartigan in the heart of midfield. Wimbledon were aiming to recapture the good form shown during most of November before the narrow defeat last time out, but League One high-flyers Charlton offered a tough hurdle to overcome in pursuit of a place in the Emirates FA Cup third round.
Both sides came out of the blocks quickly with plenty of attacking intent and Wimbledon fashioned a meaningful chance inside two minutes. A good move ended with Harry Forrester flashing a shot across the face of goal. However, just minutes later it needed George Long to keep Wimbledon level, the on-loan Sheffield United keeper making a fine point-blank save to deny Karlan Ahearne-Grant. That failed to change the early pattern of this match though with Wimbledon taking the fight to Charlton and the opening goal followed in the 10th minute. It was a reward for Deji Oshilaja’s persistence with his run into the box causing confusion among the Charlton defence and in-form Cody McDonald kept his cool to slot home from close-range.
Wimbledon continued the momentum and Taylor fired into the side-netting from an acute angle, before McDonald headed straight into the arms of Charlton keeper Ben Amos. At the other end, Charlton danger-man Ricky Holmes fired a free-kick at the wall. With Charlton having shown little as an attacking force, an equaliser came completely out of the blue. Tricky Charlton winger Mark Marshall made space for himself on the right and sent over a cross to the far post that picked out Ahearne-Grant and he made no mistake.
Far from letting that setback affect them, Wimbledon’s players continued to pile forward and Lyle Taylor struck an effort from 25 yards that Amos did well to parry. It was a little frustrating that Wimbledon did not make the most of the numerous set-pieces earned during the first-half. Taylor tried to do things differently by hitting corners and free-kicks low into the box, but the execution was not quite right. The closest Wimbledon came from a set-piece was when a deep corner was headed back by Oshilaja, but Soares could only direct his header into the arms of Amos. Charlton did end the half strongly with Marshall again showing his threat. He showed great skill to beat Jon Meades before sending over a cross that flashed across the box and Wimbledon were only just able to scramble it clear. At half-time, Wimbledon could take plenty of encouragement from the first-half display, but Charlton’s danger on the break was there for all to see.
The second-half opened with a particularly busy spell for Dons keeper George Long. First, he stayed alert to palm away a cross-shot from Ricky Holmes, before saving a long-range effort from Marshall. The best was still to come from Long though as he pulled off a save that was nothing short of breathtaking. Jay Dasilva’s fiercely struck effort was bound for the top corner, but Long reacted superbly to tip it onto the crossbar, and Josh Magennis struck the rebound over the crossbar.
After weathering that early second-half storm, Wimbledon attempted to regain the attacking momentum that had been such a feature of the first-half. Captain Barry Fuller produced a power-packed run to charge into the area, before finding Liam Trotter in space, but his shot was charged down. Following the entertainment of the first-half, the second-half was a more cagey affair, perhaps due to both sides realising that one mistake could mean elimination from the famous competition. However, Wimbledon grabbed the initiative in the 70th minute with McDonald turning from scorer to creator. Latching onto a long throw-in from Fuller, McDonald was dragged back, but the advantage was played and he powered into the area, before unselfishly setting up Taylor and he made no mistake.
There was relief for Wimbledon 13 minutes from time when Magennis headed a free-kick across the face of goal, but no one in a red shirt was there to apply the finish. However, any anxiety going into the latter stages was eased with 10 minutes to play when Taylor struck from the penalty spot. A typical lung-bursting run from Barcham ended with a foul just inside the box and Taylor fired home emphatically from 12 yards. Despite Charlton attempting to get back into it, there was no way back for the Addicks and Wimbledon marched into the third round of the FA Cup for a second successive season.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Jon Meades, Deji Oshilaja, Darius Charles, Andy Barcham (Callum Kennedy), Liam Trotter, Tom Soares, Harry Forrester (George Francomb), Cody McDonald (Jimmy Abdou), Lyle Taylor.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.