By Chris Slavin
Wimbledon slipped to a second successive defeat today with a late goal from Ricky Holmes denying Neal Ardley's men a point.
The Dons had produced a resilient defensive display up until the 78th minute winner, Holmes curling in a free-kick from an acute angle that deceived keeper George Long.
A 1-0 defeat was perhaps harsh on Wimbledon as both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances. The closest Wimbledon came to an equaliser was when Chris Solly headed a George Francomb cross against his own crossbar.
Neal Ardley was forced to make two changes to the side that started against Plymouth. Harry Forrester's groin injury meant that he missed out and Will Nightingale joined him on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring injury in training yesterday. Deji Oshilaja and Egli Kaja both earned recalls to the starting line-up.
Charlton had a decent chance in the fifth minute after a foul on the edge of the area by Tom Soares, but Jake Forster-Caskey curled over the crossbar from the free-kick. Wimbledon established good early possession and a fine move between Liam Trotter and Andy Barcham ended with a shooting opportunity for Lyle Taylor, but he shot wide from an acute angle. Midway through the half, Barcham produced a fantastic run from his own half, beating five or six challenges, but Taylor dwelt on the ball too long with Kaja waiting for a through ball and the chance was gone.
Neither side created a clear-cut chance in the first half an hour, but the Dons did offer moments of promise. Another fine move ended with space on the right for Kaja, who was lively in the opening exchanges, but his cross failed to find anyone in the box. At the other end, Deji Oshilaja showed excellent anticipation to stop Charlton getting through on goal. In front of the Dons defence, Trotter, Tom Soares and Jimmy Abdou were providing good protection, Charlton finding it tough to build any attacking momentum.
Wimbledon ended the half strongly with fine midfield play from Trotter almost creating a chance. Winning the ball deep in his own half, Trotter produced a searching long ball to pick-out Taylor, but he was unable to make the most of it. From the subsequent corner, George Francomb's cross picked out Soares, but he was unable to get his header on target and Charlton keeper Ben Amos was grateful to grasp a flick towards goal by Darius Charles. As the half-time whistle shrilled, Wimbledon could be pleased with a resilient display so far, Neal Ardley's men limiting an in-form side to very little.
The Dons enjoyed a good spell at the start of the second-half, Charlton put under sustained pressure for the first time. Francomb sent over a lovely free-kick that Charles was just unable to get on the end of, and three successive corners followed. Wimbledon failed to make the most of them with Charlton holding firm, but it had been a promising spell, as the Dons now played towards their own fans.
With an hour gone, Charlton really started to put pressure on and captain Barry Fuller, who was struggling from an earlier challenge, had to show all of his resilience to stop Ricky Holmes marching through. The Dons defence managed to hold firm in response to Charlton forcing a flurry of corners and free-kicks. With Wimbledon showing plenty of spirit to defy Charlton, the home faithful started to get a little restless. George Long showed his composure to deal with a dangerous ball in with a powerful punch clear, but Darius Charles did even better shortly afterwards. Jay Dasilva sent over a tantalising cross from the left that picked out Tariqe Fosu, but Charles did brilliantly to block his goal-bound effort.
The game became more stretched as we approached the last 15 minutes and Wimbledon had chances to find that elusive goal. A lovely one-two between Francomb and Soares ended with the latter fouled just outside the box. Substitute Callum Kennedy curled a free-kick that looked goal-bound, but it was deflected out for a corner. Fuller had an effort blocked from the subsequent corner and an even better chance followed when the ball fell at Oshilaja's feet after a scramble, but he blasted over the crossbar.
With 12 minutes to go, Charlton finally found the key to the door. Fuller fouled Holmes to give away a free-kick just outside the area and the Charlton man – so often a nemesis for Wimbledon – curled in from an acute angle with an effort that deceived George Long to find the top corner. Neal Ardley responded by introducing Cody McDonald for Jimmy Abdou. An equaliser almost followed with five minutes left when Francomb swung in a dangerous cross from the right that Chris Solly headed against his own crossbar.
Despite a late rally from the Dons, an equaliser failed to arrive as a reward for the 1,357 Wimbledon fans who made the trip, and next up it's a break from the league with an Emirates FA Cup tie against Lincoln City.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Deji Oshilaja, George Francomb, Jimmy Abdou (Cody McDonald), Liam Trotter, Andy Barcham, Tom Soares, Egli Kaja (Callum Kennedy), Darius Charles, Lyle Taylor.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.