AFC Wimbledon came up short on another frustrating afternoon at the Valley as Charlton Athletic emerged as the 3-2 victors.
It had all started so well for the men in yellow and blue as Ethan Chislett fired home within the first five minutes to give the Dons a dream start and the travelling Wimbledon contingent something to shout about.
However, our defensive frailties were exposed again as the Addicks took advantage to fire home two somewhat avoidable goals to take the lead for the first time, before Ben Heneghan guided home an excellent diving header to restore parity.
Alas it wasn’t to be enough for our plucky young side as a bright start to the second half was quickly extinguished by Charlton’s third goal of the afternoon, Akin Famewo heading what turned out to be the winner.
The Dons threw everything they had at their near neighbours, but it wasn’t to be enough as Robbo’s boys ultimately paid the price for some slack defending at key stages of the game.
Mark Robinson rang the changes for this South London derby with Sam Cosgrove - coming in for his first start after joining on loan from Birmingham City – Chislett and Paul Osew replacing Terry Ablade, Luke McCormick and Cheye Alexander. Meanwhile, former Don George Dobson was in the opposing XI.
A raucous away following of over 1,233 from SW19 packed out the Jimmy Seed Stand behind Nik Tzanev’s goal, our travelling fans urging on the players from the off. And it appeared to have the desired effect as the Dons hit the front barely three minutes into the contest.
A hoisted free kick was headed up into the air by Will Nightingale, and it appeared to be an easy claim for Charlton goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray. However, to everyone’s surprise the shot-stopper collided with his own defender, thus giving Chislett the easy task of firing home into an unguarded net, which sent the travelling Wombles mad with delight.
However, the wind was very quickly knocked out of the Wimbledon sails as Charlton equalised from a set piece of their own. A corner was flicked on before the ball appeared to rebound in from close range off a trailing Dons’ leg, leaving Tzanev with no chance from such a short distance.
It buoyed the hosts on and things were about to get worse for the Dons as Charlton took the lead for the first time. A threaded through ball sent Conor Washington clear on goal, and the Northern Irishman fired home with the minimum of fuss.
Wimbledon desperately needed to regain their composure against a side who boasted one of the best home records in League One heading into this clash. The response was exactly what was required with Anthony Hartigan’s inch-perfect free kick delivery picking out Heneghan, who steamed in with a diving header into the far corner.
Our most recent games against the Addicks had certainly been entertaining to say the least and this match-up was turning into a real classic as the two sides headed in at half- time.
The travelling Dons were certainly making themselves heard during the opening quarter of the second period and there was a sense that the momentum was building again for Wimbledon as George Marsh arrowed a shot just wide. Yet again, we were knocked down a peg as Famewo was allowed the space in the six-yard box to find the back of the net with a close range header - Wimbledon again undone by a set piece.
In response, Cosgrove was withdrawn after an encouraging display, Aaron Cosgrave entering the play as he looked to repeat his heroics from Tuesday night. Chances were few and far between in the closing stages for the Dons as the match ticked into injury time, Nightingale coming closest with a close-range effort that was beaten wide by MacGillivray.
In the end it was the hosts who claimed all three points, their clinical finishing ultimately proving to be the decisive factor in the game. As for the Dons, it is a case of regrouping and going again, another tough home game against promotion chasing Rotherham United on the horizon.
AFC Wimbledon: Nik Tzanev, Will Nightingale, George Marsh, Anthony Hartigan, Sam Cosgrove (Aaron Cosgrave), Ayoub Assal, Ethan Chislett (Luke McCormick), Jack Rudoni(Terry Ablade), Ben Heneghan, Paul Osew, Lee Brown.